Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Rock & Rails is back — but no dogs


File Photo Dean Himes of Gunbarrel was the opening act during a Rock & Rails event last year. The free summer concert series kicks off with Himes as the opening act at 5 p.m. on June 7 in Whistle Stop Park in Niwot. The Sammy Mayfield Blues Band is the headliner for that evening.

The 13th-annual Rock & Rails summer concert series kicks off on June 7 and organizers are gearing up for another great summer of live music and family fun on Thursday nights at Whistlestop Park.

Opening acts take the stage at 5 p.m., for an hour, followed by a headliner, with music resuming around 6:30. There is no charge for admission, and seating is “bring-your-own” on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Leading things off this season is longtime local guitarist Dean Himes in the early show, followed by headliner The Sammy Mayfield Blues Band, featuring “premier Denver bluesman” Sam Mayfield on guitar and vocalist Mr. Wonderful.

Longtime talent manager Satir DeMarco said concertgoers can expect a summer lineup that includes perennial favorites, plus some eclectic new acts that will definitely have audiences up out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Among the new bands are Boulder-based Banshee Tree (July 19), which combines “sounds of acoustic instruments with a diverse blend of EDM, jam, & early jazz.”

“They have a fabulous female drummer,” DeMarco said of the swing/blues/experimental quartet. “People will be dancing. They’re unique and young, and they have a great fiddle player.”

DeMarco is also excited for the return of salsa music to the Rock & Rails lineup, in the form of Quemando, a Cuban-inspired 12-piece band that performs everything from latin dance mixes to Frank Sinatra standards. Other first-time acts include Bluez House (Aug. 9), a nine-piece blues outfit fronted by a gospel choir, and Funk Knuf (June 14), led by Geno Treppeda and featuring “a big horn section.”

Of course, Rock & Rails loves to feature local talent, and this year’s lineup of returning acts is chock full of them, starting with classic rock cover band Last Men on Earth, headed by Niwot High alums Mike Holubec and Lawrence Jenkins. They’re headlining the June 28 show, followed by another local favorite, the Rebecca Folsom Band, on July 5.

“What I try to do always is a healthy mix of returning pillars that everybody knows and loves, and who, most of all, love coming back here every year,” DeMarco said.

All-vocal rock band Face returns to Rock & Rails on August 16 following a stint in Australia, where they will headline the Big Sing Bonfire at the Festival of Voices in Hobart, Tasmania on July 8.

Renowned blues band Chris Daniels and the Kings comes to town on July 26, and the series wraps up on August 30 with headliner Hazel Miller, a longtime Denver favorite who attracts one of the largest audiences of the year.

“The music is fabulous, but what makes it better are the audiences,” DeMarco said. “We are famous for our great audiences, as well as our great music. The audiences are really co-creators in this series.”

Returning concert-goers won’t see much in the way of big changes to the overall experience this year, according to co-manager Vicki Maurer of the Niwot Cultural Arts Association. The NCAA co-sponsors the series along with the Niwot Business Association, and all proceeds are split evenly between the groups, which then reinvest the money in Niwot-centric projects, such as upkeep of Niwot Children’s Park and improvements to Whistle Stop Park.

Attendees will see some logistical and safety improvements inside Whistlestop Park. A large pathway has been installed from the entrance to the south end of the park, streamlining foot traffic and making it easier to move through the audience to the food and beverage vendors. Organizers have also reconfigured the area in front of the beer trailer in order to serve more customers simultaneously.

“It will be easier to get through the park,” Maurer said. “There were a couple of nights when it was busy and we needed to get to the front in a hurry…..We’re hoping the paths help with that and with handicapped accessibility.”

Food and soft drinks will once again be available from local food vendors, including Abo’s Pizza, Georgia Boys Barbeque, and the ever-popular dessert truck, Sweet Cow. A selection of Bootstrap Brewing Co. beers, house wines and margaritas will once again be available for purchase by those over 21 years of age. However, concertgoers might want to bring a little extra cash or stop at the Bank of the West ATM, as rising costs for insurance and security mean organizers will be raising the price of adult beverages for the first time, from $5 to $6 (happy hour pricing of $5 will still be available before 6:00 p.m.).

Attendees can bring in outside food, but outside alcohol is strictly prohibited. Patrons are not allowed to leave with alcohol they purchased inside the park, even if it’s just to check on their kids at the adjacent Niwot Children’s Park.

“We did unfortunately have to raise the price of drinks,” Maurer said. “But costs are going up, and while we’d like to keep it the same, we felt with the little bit of increase, we could make the lines more efficient, and we also want to make more upgrades to Whistlestop Park.”

Maurer also wanted to highlight another change for concert-goers this year: dogs will not be allowed at Rock & Rails this season, except for legitimate service dogs. Unfortunately, dogs, large crowds, and loud music have not always proved a great combination.

“We decided that there are too many people and we had a few scuffles,” Mauer said. “It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a few years, and decided to make that rule this year.”

Concertgoers can expect to see entertainer Jody Evans and her hula hoops again this summer, and the pedi-cab program operated by Niwot’s Robbin Vinson will once again be up and running to outlying parking areas. Rides are free of charge, but tips to the drivers are encouraged. The NBA will also been running a Niwot-centered booth, which will feature information about local attractions and businesses.

Rock & Rails is also proud to bring back the Tip Jar program for another year. In 2017, local non-profit organizations collected a total of $15,386 in donations from Rock & Rails concertgoers, an average of $1,099 per night. This year, more than 16 local programs will have a chance to collect for their programs, including the Mwebaza Foundation and the Niwot Football, volleyball, and cheerleading squads, which combine with the Niwot High Boosters for one night.

Attendance at the weekly shows has been consistent in recent years, which some have described as a big block party.

Maurer stressed that return visitors should expect the same fun, family-friendly event they’ve come to know and love over the past 12 years.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she said. “That’s our philosophy.”

The 2018 Rock & Rails concert series runs 13 weeks on Thursday nights from June 7 through August 30 at Whistlestop Park, just south of Old Town. For a full lineup of opening and headlining acts, go to  Niwot.com/rock-and-rails.


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