This year’s Dolores River Festival took place on a hot, dry Saturday, but it managed to keep the fun flowing.
People started camping out at Joe Rowell Park on Friday night, anticipating the annual music festival and fundraiser for the nonprofit Greater Dolores Action. This year’s lineup included local and out-of-state bands with styles including ska, reggae and rock ’n’ roll. The festival also featured games for kids and adults, a raft raffle, numerous food trucks and other vendors.
Last year, about 1,700 people attended the festival, and although final ticket sales weren’t available Saturday, organizer Ryan Robison said he expected to beat that number this year.
This is Robison’s fourth year working on the event.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but once you open the gate and the first band comes on, and everyone’s smiling and dancing – there’s no better feeling,” he said.
The festival headliner was Hollis Brown, a rock group from Queens, New York, making its Southwest Colorado debut. But the daytime lineup included more Southwest Colorado musicians than in years past, which GDA board member Kate Thompson said was intentional.
“We wanted to stick with the spirit of supporting our local communities,” she said.
Apart from Hollis Brown, the lineup was mostly made up of Durango bands, including the acoustic duo Elmore’s Corner, ska group Buster’s Ghost and Southwest-style Crags. Montezuma County musicians Little Brother and Hurricane Jake’s One-Man Band also made appearances.
The Dolores River was too low this year to allow the traditional rafting parade and other river-themed events. Thompson said that was a loss to the festival, but organizers tried to make up for it with the music and other activities, including a raffle with a shallow-water raft as a prize.
One new attraction this year was a row of booths set up by students from the University of Colorado Boulder Museum of Natural History. They were in Montezuma County for a two-week series of educational workshops at Mesa Verde National Park, part of a developing partnership between the two museums.
“We decided, on an off-day, to work here and see how it is outside the park,” one student, Kelsie Gering, said.
Families went to the booths to get hands-on insights into the way certain plants and animals, like the yucca, have influenced life in the Four Corners since the time of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Rebecca Coon, the Boulder museum’s program developer, said she hoped to bring many more workshops and events to Mesa Verde and the surrounding area in the future. For now, her students’ workshops will be held at the park through June 9.
Other groups, including Montezuma County outdoor businesses like Osprey Packs and river-themed organizations from around the Four Corners, like Canyon Country Youth Corps, hosted vendor booths around the main stage, and people of all ages participated in activities such cornhole, pottery painting and volleyball. But for many festivalgoers, the event was all about the music.
For the Wolf family, of Cortez, the festival has been an annual tradition for years. It’s where they adopted their rescue dog, Lucy, five years ago, and Monique Wolf said they still bring her every year because the event is so dog-friendly.
“Everybody kind of knows each other,” Wolf said. “It’s a nice social event.”
The family said their only complaint about the festival was that it only lasts one day.
The Dolores River Festival is the biggest fundraiser event of the year for Greater Dolores Action, which organizes many community service projects in the Dolores area. Last year, the money went toward putting up more signs for local trails.
This year, the group asked festivalgoers to vote on one of four possible projects: removal of man-made hazards in the river, more town events, improvements to the river walk trails or the construction of a permanent band shell in Joe Rowell Park.