When UllrGrass came to town for the first time last year, nobody knew what to expect. Would the Norse God actually come? Would he bring an ice storm and crash the whole party? Could Golden support a festival with winter descending?
Turned out, yes, on all accounts. Sunday was a beautiful powder day at Parfet Park and the close proximity of the stages had pedestrians all over town. Coloradans, as expected, are experts at dressing for the weather and somewhere between 2000-3000 attendants showed up.
So the festival lives on, back for another year, UllrGrass is coming to Golden on the weekend of January 30. The layout is a little different, but the music has only gotten better and with the experience from last year, the organization is running in top shape.
Like any intimate relationship, it can take awhile to get warmed up so it’s good to start early. UllrGrass has already started pulling the crowds together, beginning with a band contest on Friday, Jan 22nd. The contestants took over the Buffalo Rose and came down to a playoff between the Lonesome Days and Grass It Up. Every band brought something great and different, but the Lonesome Days pulled it out with a heartwarming, gospel’esq tune that had the crowd swinging. Saturday the 23rd, featured the karaoke contest at the Ace Hi tavern and the coming week holds more events.
Starting on the 27th at the Barkley Ballroom in Frisco, where the UllrGrass Allstars will play a private dinner, and then the 28th at Cervantes Otherside, with a performance by The Herman Clan, featuring Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, Silas Herman and Collin Herman, and the Ullrgrass Allstars.
Speaking of the lineup, it features some familiar faces and some soon to be. Mark Morris, along with the RapidGrass boys will be in, along with Adam Kinghorn, Sam Parks and the Head for the Hills outfit. Not to mention patron Chris Thompson with Luke Bulla, Bill Mckay and the Coral Creek Band. The band released a new record in November, and with the slew of quest performers, it’s anyone’s guess who will join them onstage.
Headlining the festival is The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, who is also no stranger to Colorado, after traveling with String Cheese Incident. Nor are the Railsplitters, who call this great state home and preformed at a sister festival, Rapid Grass in 2015. A full lineup can be found at the UllrGrass website and the schedule was released last week.
None of this would be possible without the team behind the scenes. Starting with Susannah and Chris Thompson, the patron masterminds. Longtime residents of Colorado, the Thompsons are frequent instigators of brewery jams and advocates for musicians across the great state. The proceeds of UllrGrass will go to the Coral Creek Music Project and to the Plan International organization, which strives to end the cycle of poverty and is in operation in over 50 countries.
By establishing the Coral Creek Music Project, the pair created an organization that helps “the development of local musicians, music organizations and access to music opportunities, supporting young artist, providing networking opportunities, producing music industry workshops on the fundamentals of the music industry and providing free music experiences to families and inspiring the public to support local musicians to make our community and the world, a better place.”
Volunteer support is the cornerstone for UllrGrass, and the festival wouldn’t be possible without it. Not only because UllrGrass is a nonprofit but also because the volunteer base is also the year round Golden community.
With over a hundred volunteers, it’s amazing how many are also frequents at jams and have known each other for years. Tom Theisen and Jason Skjaret who handle Site Operations, have been in Golden for close to ten years and knew each other in Florida, before moving to Golden. Likewise, Theisen recalls moving to Golden in July of 2009 and meeting Susannah and Chris “before December.” With such a tight knit group it’s easy to see how putting on the festival is a community event.
Take Heather and Jeff Klenske, they just had their first child two months ago but are still finding time to pitch in. Actually as Volunteer Organizer, Heather does more than just pitch in, she organizes the whole damn rodeo. From scheduling to acquisition, “we are doing it in much more advanced timing,” Heather said about being ahead of the curve this year.
“More training” is also something Heather said they are doing to make this year smoother. With a couple short notices and a few hectic moments last year, all the lead volunteers are making efforts to build on the experience and ensure this year will be a little less Wild West. From simple things like trash receptacles to the box office, expect more clarity and organization.
The Beer Festival is a prime example of the crew bettering last year. With a liquor license permitting error and a handful of breweries the event was a success but had its hiccups. This year Matt Strohl stepped up and has 23 breweries coming to the event including, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues and Cray Mountain Brewery, and the permit has been triple double-checked.
Community events happen everyday. From dinners at the Lions Club to Art Walks on Main Street, we are lucky to have so many opportunities to participate in our towns. It’s a rare bird though that engages such a core group of locals to host an event drawing from the entire Front Range. With a vision that spans for years to come, Susannah said it best, “It is truly humbling when the community rallies together to create something special for the town. It takes a village to throw a festival.”