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RockyGrass 2015: A Volunteer's Perspective

rockygrass 2015 - student perspective

We have been participating at RockyGrass since 2011 and this year we had a great group of student volunteers helping us get the word out about ArtistWorks to their fellow festivarians. Here are a few observations about this year’s 43rd annual RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival from one of our volunteers, Peter Ostrowski:

The Line-Up for this year’s RockyGrass had something for everyone. There is so much to see and do each day, you don’t want to miss much. 

Photo from Planet Bluegrass

On Friday, Sierra Hull and the Kruger Brothers each played sets that had a listener thinking, “Did Mozart write for bluegrass?” Jens Kruger on banjo took picking to places I did not think it could go.  The joy and occasional eye contact shared with his brother Uwe on guitar was special. Later in the day, we got to hear some traditional bluegrass from Peter Rowan and of course, The Earls of Leicester. Claire Lynch Band was honest, clean and compelling. 

jens kruger at rockygrass 2015

photo by Candace Horgan

The new Tarp Number procedure contributed to a more fair and less stressful system.  At midnight, everyone went single file through the enclosed, wooden entrance of the festival grounds to have his wrist band marked and to be handed a tarp ticket. No scrambling around or having to reach out to a guy holding a fist full of tarp numbers. It proved to be a more serene, civil, orderly way to be disappointed with your high tarp number!

ArtistWorks was well represented with Andy Hall playing Dobro with the Infamous Stringdusters. I kept asking myself, “How is Jerry Douglas going to follow this guy?” They finished their set with a version of the Cash, Nelson et al song, “Highwayman.”  Sweet.

Saturday night in the Wildflower Pavilion the HillBenders blew away the late night standing crowd with “Tommy, A Bluegrass Opry.” It was an hour and a half of unbelievable intensity. Something more than music, it was a paean to the creativity and potential of the human spirit.

Sunday night, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers and Hot Rize were the grand finale. ArtistWorks' Bryan Sutton garnered audience applause for his shredding solos. The band arrived at the main Stage on horseback. The Trailblazer set even featured “exotic ladies”... a relatively new bluegrass tradition? 

bryan sutton with hot rize

photo from

All weekend, the weather cooperated. The Festivarians brought beer, food, camp gear and their kids. Toddlers were everywhere. The hot, sunny afternoons saw many empty chairs on the performance lawn. People were drawn to the St Vrain river especially where it flows under the rock wall by the Wildflower Pavilion. Nary was heard a discouraging word.

Each year at RockyGrass one’s circle of friends grows. I met more than a few dads who have been bringing the family to RockyGrass for up to fifteen years now.  A guy from Santa Fe told me, “My daughter turns sixteen next year and wants to be our driver next summer.”  Already, I’m looking forward to running into people next year, that I just met this year.

It’s hard to conceive of a place or event where everyone is so knowledgable and interested in the performers and the music.  I’m sure there are great differences in work skills, education levels and geographic origins of festivarians. Yet, it all works.  Everyone creates their own experience and is subject to the same set of rules. It doesn’t seem to be a place where some people are more equal than others. Traditional and new, young and old, all combined to make RockyGrass ’43 a special experience.

rockygrass 2015

ArtistWorks student Volunteer Peter Ostrowski relaxing to the music with his son Dave

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