Arts & Entertainment  May 22, 2024

Music festival may find new home in Larimer County

VIRGINIA DALE — A fledgling music festival that got its start on a rural tract northwest of Greeley may have found a new home just south of the Wyoming border in Larimer County.

Organizers of the Gulch Fest Music and Arts Gathering say this year’s festival is planned for July 11-14 on a scenic 10-acre tract east of U.S. Highway 287.

Rebecca Everette, Larimer County’s community development director, told BizWest that the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on June 10 to determine whether to approve the event. She said the county’s Building Division did not have significant concerns about the event, but added that concerns from several other referral agencies related to traffic control, public health, and emergency services have yet to be addressed.


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Forrest Huenink, whose family owns the festival site at an elevation of 7,500 feet, told BizWest that “our northern property line is the Wyoming border. We can see the ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado’ sign from here.”

Huenink said a maximum of 350 people are expected to attend the event, which he said would include “some very Grateful Dead-esque jam bands and some electronic music, a happy mix of both worlds.”

GRM LLC, the entity that is staging the festival with a name that stands for Gulch Roots Movement, is working through the extensive application process with Larimer County that includes how traffic, sanitation, medical emergencies, adverse weather and other considerations would be handled, he said.

“Gulch Fest has grown from humble roots that began as a one-night party in a horse corral in 2018,” Hanna Bliss, the festival’s founder, said in a prepared statement. “Despite losing our beloved Gulch location in 2023, our spirit remains unbroken. We’re excited to continue our tradition in Virginia Dale this summer, celebrating our collective power and individual gifts.”

The small festival started in 2018 at a privately owned parcel called Whitetail Draw northwest of Greeley and was held annually through 2022 except for a break in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“When we started Gulch Fest,” Bliss said, “it was just a bunch of friends and some local bands. But as more people showed up every year, we realized we needed to make things official with permits and everything that comes with it. Navigating the permitting process wasn’t easy, especially in Weld County, where we just couldn’t align on what the festival needed to grow. It felt like hitting a wall.

“So, we moved to Larimer County, and honestly, it’s been a breath of fresh air. The folks there have been incredibly supportive, helping us find a new spot in Virginia Dale that we hope will be our long-term home,” Bliss said. “It’s a big change, but it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come, turning what was once just a casual get-together into a festival that really brings our community together.”

Bliss said the new venue “marks a pivotal chapter in the festival’s history, providing a more stable and compliant foundation that aligns with its burgeoning scale. Under the management of The Gulch Fest Movement, which is transitioning into a nonprofit organization, Gulch Fest is poised to not only continue its tradition of music and community but also to expand its impact and reach within the vibrant Larimer County cultural scene.”

When organizers could no longer use Whitetail Draw, said Hailee Nolan, GRM’s co-owner and musician coordinator, they held what she described as an indoor “fund-raising event” in 2023 at Equinox Center of Herbal Studies, 401 S. Mason St. in Fort Collins. Finally, the Huenink family property was offered.

The festival’s website lists planned musical acts including Los Toms, Shadow Work, The Bramblers, Dreamspace Database and other psychedelic rock and electronic dance music performers.

“About six years ago, my friend Hanna invited me to play a midnight set at the first Gulch gathering,” said Tyler O’Hare of The Bramblers. “It was raw, real and magical. Now, bringing The Bramblers to the stage feels like a homecoming.”

A total of 20 bands will play over the weekend, the applicants said, with 45 minutes between each act.

If county commissioners approve the application, the festival site, at 36292 U.S. 287 near Virginia Dale, will be open from 2 p.m. July 11 until noon July 14. A three-day ticket purchased online will cost $60 through Friday and $70 thereafter.

Although county staffers determined that the stage’s load rating of 125 pounds per square foot was “adequate,” they wrote that “neither stages nor tents are rated for the ultimate wind speed of the site. Therefore, the organizers must create, print, post and train staff on a high-wind action plan including monitoring wind speeds, setting wind speed trigger levels, suspending events, taking down stage side or rear walls and tents, and evacuating people for a minimum distance around structures if winds hit trigger levels.”

The applicants said no alcoholic beverages would be sold at the site.

Campsites would be first come, first serve and set up “in a traditional tent city format,” the applicants wrote to the county. “Our camping section is a short walk from the three designated parking areas. Multiple parking attendants will be available to help guide attendees to the camping area. There are 10 designated car camping locations that will be approximately 30 feet long by 15 feet wide in size to be able to accommodate one vehicle, a tent and a 10-by-10-foot shade if desired by the camper.

“All campers are encouraged to bring three days of meals, beverages, water and all camping essentials. This is a true outdoor camping event, and it is encouraged to be prepared for any weather.”

Campers wouldl be encouraged to cook food in the designated “community kitchen” space, not at their campsites.

The applicants said music wouldl begin on the stage at 6 p.m. and play until 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 11. On Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, music would continue from noon until midnight. Departure times would be staggered on Sunday, July 14.

Vendors would be located south of a community kitchen along pedestrian walkways and would sell local handmade crafts, products, clothing and art, and an art gallery will be set up to sell paintings and other artwork.

Approximately 30 volunteers would work throughout the weekend in exchange for a three-day general-admission camping ticket, performing tasks such as parking attendant, guest check-in, stage hands, a “green team,” security, help in the community kitchen, helping serve at a tea tent, and setting up and breaking down the event.

Gulch Fest will move from Weld County to Larimer this summer.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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