Hi-Country Bluegrass Festival coming to Arcosanti Saturday
When more than 800 people showed up for the first Hi-Country Bluegrass Festival at Arcosanti three years ago, organizers knew they had a popular new event.
Bluegrass fans love outdoor festivals, so the Arcosanti location is perfect with its protected outdoor amphitheater and great views.
"Bluegrass fans are great people," said Ben Sandoval, the festival emcee who also booked the bands. "You can have a bluegrass festival and when people leave, it's clean."
The weather for the outdoor festival has been widely variable so far. The first year was hot and sunny after the amphitheater lost its shade structure in a fierce wind, then an unusual snow hit the second year and forced the music indoors.
But this year, the amphitheater canopy is back and organizers have made other small changes for comfort, too. For example, people can buy alcohol near their seating and sit anywhere they want, instead of being confined to the upper deck. Vendors and Arcosanti's restaurant will sell food.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4.
It features six bands from the Valley of the Sun: James Reams & the Barnstormers, Back Porch Bandits, Greenwood Sidee, Traditional Bluegrass Reunion, Jam Pak Blues 'n Grass Neighborhood Band, and The Real Deal. The Potato Patch Band from Spring Valley had to cancel because of a band member's illness.
The Jam Pak Blues 'n' Grass Band will offer free workshops all day for children and adults on guitars, fiddles, banjos, dulcimers and washtub bass. They call it their "petting zoo." Just sign up when you arrive.
Both Greenwood Sidee and The Real Deal formed after their members learned to play with the Jam Pak group.
The Arizona Highway 69 Chamber of Commerce started the non-profit festival, which was the brainchild of chamber President Ben Satran. He said it's the chamber's biggest fundraiser. Some of the proceeds support chamber activities and some goes to a Mayer High School scholarship.
If the festival's success continues, Satran would like to see it expand to two days in the future.
"It's a great collaboration with the Highway 69 Chamber," said Mary Hoadley, Arcosanti site coordinator. "We really didn't have bluegrass in our music series before, so it's a nice broadening of events.
"We like to see Arcosanti enlivened with fun and activities."
Emcee Sandoval, 79, has been organizing bluegrass festivals around Arizona since 1976, including those in Payson, Wickenburg and Blythe on the other side of the Colorado River.
A resident of Spring Valley, Sandoval is donating his time to the Highway 69 Chamber to show his support.