Volume 104, Number 29 - July 19, 2007
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Music Fest is out
Sadly for blues connoisseurs, rock addicts and anyone in Pinedale who enjoyed a taste of culture from the South each summer, the 9th Annual Pinedale Music Fest has been cancelled.
Dan Abernathy, the Music Fest organizer and Rock Rabbit Gallery proprietor, lifted his shoulders and let them drop into a slump, shaking his head. “No money,” he said curtly to explain the cancellation.
Abernathy had admitted in early June that he hadn’t raised any of the quarter million dollars necessary, due to the death of the festival’s leading financial contributor Gayle Kinnison.
He had predicted with strong hopes, however, that with the help of fundraising from bands and oil and gas companies that had contributed before, he might still hit the mark.
But instead, Abernathy found that now, a month before the scheduled date for the August festival, he had only raised $500. “I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched,” he said with a dead stare behind the Rock Rabbit counter Wednesday afternoon. “A lot of people said they’d give me money and never did, and I held out to the very end.” The tall, self-proclaimed hippie said he feels particularly upset over lawsuit threats now cramming his voicemail from the agents of groups he booked for the concert and are demanding compensation for the new empty slate in their tour schedules. Abernathy couldn’t predict how he would respond.
“What can I say? Bring it on,” Abernathy said. “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, as my mom used to say.” Music Fest, previously dubbed Blues Fest, garnered several legendary blues musicians to the dusty streets of Pinedale each year, and recently added nationally worshipped rock bands to perform at the unlikely venue of the Pinedale Rodeo Grounds. The festival also drew in thousands of music fans from across the state and country, most of whom spent the weekend camped in bright pastel tents around the 40-foot stage.
“It’s such a sad, sad, sad turn of events, I’m so depressed about it,” said Terrie Swift, the membership and events coordinator for the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s such a unique experience to live in such a small town in such a small area and be able to see that kind of talent right in your back yard,” she said. “It’s unique and it’s rare, and it was special to Pinedale, and it will be sorely missed.”
Swift said she and her family joined the crowds at the festival almost every year. “I think with the momentum it was starting to build, to have to cut it short now for monetary reasons is just depressing,” she said, adding that the Chamber has been inundated with phone calls from people concerned because the Web site for the concert was down.
The town itself will lose an attraction that boosted its popularity outside the oil and gas industry, said Mindi Crabb, tourism marketing director for the Sublette County Tourism Board.
“Events such as these, even though we don’t have a lot of lodging available, have always brought in a nice, diverse crowd,” Crabb said. “Us having major events on weekends in the summertime makes us a desirable destination, and events with a long history such as the Blues Festival create just a positive picture of the town.”
Surely the end of the festival hits Abernathy the hardest. He literally improved the concert from the ground up after taking over the organization six years ago, not only spending the whole year scrounging for funds and booking acts, but also raising and deconstructing the stage by hand. “The town doesn’t know what it’s lost,” he said.
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