Dolores River Festival draws big crowd

Thursday, June 15, 2017 1:48 PM
River guide Josh Munson takes a group of festival attendees down the Dolores River during the free raft ride session.
Talented hoola hoopers performed at the Dolores River Festival.
The Dolores River festival is a family-friendly event.
Kids enjoy a classic water balloon fight during the Dolores River Festival.
Dan and Linda McEuen traveled from Payson, Arizona, to attend the festival.
The festival is kid- and dog-friendly.
Bridger Beyhan having fun with his dad, Billy Beyhan, at the festival.
Survey says? Fort Lewis College economic students Kloe North, Julia Foran and Evan Miller conducted a survey during the festival to determine its economic impacts.

The beats of reggae, funk and rock ’n’ roll reverberated off the canyon walls as thousands of music fans lounged in the sun or hit the dance floor during the Dolores River Festival Saturday.

By midday, the crowd at Joe Rowell Park looked larger than in past years, said festival director Ryan Robison. And with bands alternating between two stages, the music never stopped.

“It’s going great. We’ve got a better layout this year, and the weather is fine,” Robison said. “The festival keeps growing and improving. We may beat our record of 2,300 last year.”

Dancers with hula hoops joined families with kids jumping up and down to the beat of the music in front of the main stage. Many were anticipating headliner Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, but the diversity of local and regional acts attracted a lot of fans too.

“Elder Grown is one of my favorite local bands,” said Rick Ryan.

Robert Dobry, of Cortez, looked forward to hearing The Yawpers, a Denver punk band.

“They are cool, and Hello Dollface was a great band to kick things off,” he said.

Dan and Linda McEuen drove up from Payson, Arizona, for the festival.

“We discovered it one year when we had a job up this way and had such a fun time we came back,” Dan said. “What’s not to like – great music, great crowd. The people here have sophisticated musical tastes.”

To escape the heat, more than 160 people took advantage of free raft rides on the nearby Dolores River, which was flowing strong at 2,100 cubic feet per second. Jacks Plastic and Four Corners River Sports offered free demos of paddle boards, kayaks, and duckies.

“We’re demo-ing a prototype raft we built that has less seams to reduce labor costs so we can better compete with Chinese boat manufacturers,” said Eerol Baade, owner of Jacks Plastics, a boating products company. “Guides have been field testing it on the Dolores River, and we expect to start selling it this fall.”

Fifteen Fort Lewis College students conducted surveys of more than 300 festival-goers as part of a study to gauge economic impacts. Surveyor Evan Miller said some of the questions are to find out where people came from, how much they spent during the day, what activities they did, how often they come to the festival, and where they are staying.

“The college did a similar survey six years ago, so we can compare our findings to see if there are any changes,” he said. “One thing festival organizers want to find out is whether there is enough interest to expand the festival to two days.”

Montezuma County Sheriff Deputy David Van Bibber patrolled the festival on a mountain bike and reported no problems.

“It is a friendly crowd, and you can see how everyone is having a great time relaxing, visiting with each other and enjoying the music,” he said.