By Jeffrey V. Smith
NedFest is back for its 16th year, Aug. 22-24, and is once again featuring some of our region’s top talent mixed in with popular touring acts. While the annual three-day outdoor music, arts and microbrew festival, for most, comes and goes in a single weekend, it’s dedicated volunteer organizers spend a majority of the year working to pull it off.
When the event’s founder, “Michigan” Mike Torpie, passed away in 2011, friend and long-time NedFest volunteer Kristen McFarland stepped up to help keep the event alive in his honor. She quickly found out how much work goes into putting on a festival. After two successful festivals and a third about to occur, she now officially holds the title of NedFest Event Coordinator and Talent Buyer. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Peak to Peak Music Education Association, NedFest’s non-profit, presenting organization.
“It is much harder than we thought,” McFarland said. “Mike worked harder than we ever knew.” She explained that while it’s more of a cooperative effort now, “it’s not any easier.” The experience has left her much more respectful of Torpie’s work and dedication.
Torpie grew NedFest from a small gathering in a backyard to a three-day event attracting fans to the shores of Barker Reservoir while bringing positive attention to the town. When Torpie died, his parents gave their blessing and support to form a board to continue the festival, and are “emeritus members” of the board. “I think it’s a definite memorial to Mike to keep NedFest going; it was the main activity in his life for many years,” Board Member Rob Savoye said.
Despite all the hard work, the coordinator and her team do not get paid. Among other duties, talent buying, organizing infrastructure, getting permits, paying deposits, running a website, selling tickets, finding sponsors, preparing non-profit paperwork, dealing with the IRS and posting to social media are all accomplished by McFarland without compensation.
Other dedicated volunteers, like Savoye, coordinate with the fire and police departments and work as the electrician and head of security during the event. Deb D’Andra and Lyn Hanna also contribute by coordinating volunteers, working with venders, collecting taxes, running the box office and merchandise booth and obtaining state licensing. Jeffrey Swift volunteers countless hours behind a grill working hospitality and feeding hungry volunteers and performers.
When the event does bring in a profit, all of the money goes to the charities of the Peak to Peak Music Education Association, which supports local music programs. “We have some big ideas if we ever make some real money,” McFarland added.
Ultimately, the volunteers do what they do to keep Torpie’s memory alive, but also to continue to bring a quality, family-friendly event to town along with their favorite musicians. “I’d like it to keep happening,” McFarland said, “it’s part of the community now and it’s fun, even if I do work all weekend.”
The year’s NedFest, on Friday, brings back local favorites Jeff Austin Band featuring Jeff Austin, Danny Barnes, Eric Thorin and Ross Martin along with Billy Nershi’s Blue Planet featuring Bill Nershi and Keith Moseley of the String Cheese Incident, Eric Deutsch on keys, and E-Town’s Christian Teele on drums. Gates open at 5:30 p.m.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band headline on Saturday. Kyle Hollingsworth Band, also of the String Cheese Incident, and the Jaden Carlson Band perform as well. The day kicks off when gates open at 11:30 a.m.
The event continues Sunday with Drew Emmitt Band, of Leftover Salmon, and special sets from guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett of Little Feat, The New Orleans Suspects and a special combination of the two. There will also be a special Sunday Kid’s Show coordinated by local fiddle-player Annie Savage and featuring area children.
Tickets can be purchased as single-day tickets, two-day passes or three-day passes. Friday tickets are $45 online or $40 if purchased at Brightwood Music and The Deli at 8236’ in Nederland or the Boulder Theater. Saturday tickets are $55 and Sunday runs $50 if purchased in advance. A two-day pass for Friday and Saturday is $90 while a Saturday and Sunday pass costs $95. Early three-day passes are $135. All prices increase at the gate. Teens ages 13-17 can buy $30 tickets daily, while children 12 and under are free with an adult ticket. Limited camping is available.
For tickets and more information please visit http://www.NedFest.org.