Steamboat Springs Thousands of people are expected to flock to the vendors' tents and the performance stage set up between Slopeside Grill and Sheraton Steamboat Resort today and Sunday for WestFest.
For the first time in Steamboat Springs, WestFest presents western culture in the forms of music, Native American dancers, a cowboy camp and art exhibits throughout the Torian Plum area.
Tents are set up on the roof of the Torian Plum Plaza parking garage and the lot below adjacent to the Sheraton.
Gates open at 11 a.m. today and Sunday with music beginning soon after. Performers include Michael Martin Murphey, Hal Ketchum, Sam Bush, Red Steagall, Riders in the Sky, Shawn Colvin, Ricky Skaggs and Hot Club of Cowtown throughout the two-day event.
Murphey, the originator of WestFest, and Doug Terry of Terry Sports collaborated on the event with the help of Kevin Kipp of Paragon Entertainment, Scott Flowers and many others in and around Steamboat.
Terry said he expects about 1,500 to 2,000 people each day of the western festival and hopes the community will understand the importance of supporting the celebration of Western music and culture to keep it in Steamboat Springs for the next two years.
"We hope other entities want it back and want to support it," Terry said. "If we can show this to community leaders and the city, hopefully they'll see the value of a good investment."
WestFest started 15 years ago at Copper Mountain and has changed locations for the past four years to various resort towns in Colorado.
Murphey began WestFest in order to celebrate the old and new western culture. Murphey is an advocate of preserving open space and Western traditions and has incorporated those efforts into WestFest.
He has worked closely with Historic Routt County to keep trails maintained and historic structures standing. Friday night's WestFest Ball benefited Historic Routt County.
Terry said he's been nervous and anxious about bringing WestFest to Steamboat because of the magnitude of the talent and preparations. However, he was willing to do most anything to get it here.
"Hell, I was going to take out a mortgage on my car, borrow the money if I had to, to get a good lineup the first year," Terry said.
Terry said he expects the event to lose money this year, but he is not concerned.
"I hope it brings people together to recognize that we respect good music and good art," Terry said. "We want it to grow at a manageable pace. It's something you can only hope becomes bigger."
Terry said WestFest can become an important event for Steamboat retailers, providing the community with a tourism draw at the end of the summer season after most other activities have come to an end.