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Rock & Rails finds mid-season groove

Like a lot of other well-loved community activities, last year Rock & Rails faced cancellation in the wake of pandemic health concerns. But 2021 is a new year, and things are beginning to reopen. That includes the beloved concert series.

The series began on time on June 3, but organizers were concerned about what to expect. Would there need to be protocols put in place? Would audience members return? Would the concert feel the same way it always had?

As of the July 8 reggae concert by Selasse and the Fafa Family, all signs appear to be positive.

Crowds in front of the stage were overflowing and dance floors were packed. There were lines at food trucks, everything at the new Depot building was orderly and working well, Niwot's Boy Scout Troop161 members were collecting donations, and the Gargoyles, the beloved youth volunteers who have helped at the event for years, were positioned around the recycling cans.

In many ways, it seemed like there was never a break. The popular event, which began in 2006, is managed by Niwot Cultural Arts Association in conjunction with the Niwot Business Association. Both organizations provide volunteers who manage the event and make it happen, then share the net proceeds, which help fund the Niwot Children's Park maintenance costs.

While this year much may seem the same, some things have changed and grown. Event co-manager Vicki Maurer, who also organizes beverage service at the event and serves as business manager and partner at the Courier, was pleased about the size of the crowds and the success of the depot building.

"Concert-goers are happy to be able to attend the events again after no season in 2020," Mauer said. "And the most exciting part is that our patrons have been very, very generous in tipping this year, averaging almost $2,000 per concert, and our largest nights are yet to come. It's great to see everyone again."

Another concert series co-Manager and the Courier's managing editor, Biff Warren, added, "Even when we had a night of rain that eventually cleared up, we collected almost $1400 in the tip jars." Co-manager Dan Hawk of Edward Jones took care of getting the beer truck set up to operate in the new Depot building.

The event's long-time volunteer coordinator, realtor Jenn Porter, said things were going smoothly and attendance counts are as strong as ever.

Of course, the series isn't without the kind of drama that can affect an event during any year. "A beer truck backed over a memorial bench on opening night, but the bench has since been repaired and is back in service, thanks to the efforts of Tim Wise of Wise Buys Antiques," Warren said.

Although getting this far in producing the series may seem easy; it wasn't.

Warren said, "When we started looking at whether we could have a concert season back in January, we were thinking we might have to charge admission, do online ticketing, check temperatures at the gate and require masks. Our organizing committee met monthly to discuss how we might be able to pull it off. When the vaccine became widely available, and gathering restrictions were lifted in May, we were ready to go."

Because of uncertainty in knowing if the series could even happen, the group had to do all of the same tasks as in a typical season, but in a shorter time frame.

That was the biggest challenge of the year, and Warren outlined all of the help that was needed. The list was long.

"Kathy Trauner of Fly Away Home got the word out quickly to our sponsors, and the response was very encouraging. Alyson Bell of Tool Studios put our advertising campaign together and got banners and signs printed. Michelle Henzel of Osmosis Gallery is our treasurer and handles all of the finances. Tom Smathers of Abo's Pizza organized the food vendors and ordered the sanolets and hand wash stations. Holly Saia of Nourish & Company arranged for a face painter to set up at the Park."

Warren noted that the event has over 100 volunteers plus a few paid positions, and that even the contractors put in lots of extra hours to get Rock & Rails up and running on time. "Satir DeMarco of Zenith Realty quickly got bands signed up to perform, and put together a great lineup of opening acts and headliners. She also got our sound guy, Craig Cutcliff, who has provided sound for us from day one in 2006, back on board. Jill Whitener stepped up to help Julie Breyer and Jenn Porter with the Gargoyles, and arranged for recycle and compost services, and Bill Whitener helped Chris Teta transition to being in charge of set up and take down. Chris also helps Gil Pomeroy with security and parking."

Warren, who took care of insurance and licensing for the event, said, "Looking back, it's kind of amazing that we were able to pull it off."


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