Snowmass fest boasts best of the West |

Snowmass fest boasts best of the West

Naomi Havlen

The lifestyles of the new and Old West collide at Michael Martin Murphey’s WestFest this weekend, with Western music, arts and crafts and horseback riding in Snowmass Village.”It was a party I couldn’t find, so I put it on myself,” Murphey said on Thursday, speaking by phone from Fanny Hill in Snowmass. Murphey is a best-selling recording artist of “American Cowboy” music, well-known for his song “Wildfire,” recorded 30 years ago.He’s also a history buff and owner of 4,000 books on American culture, especially when it comes to the Wild West. Around 20 years ago Murphey played at a festival at Copper Mountain that didn’t draw large crowds. When the organizers asked him to come up with a concept for a Western festival that would work, he dreamed up WestFest.”I looked around and saw bluegrass festivals and concerts for rock and jazz, but not for the real roots of Colorado,” he said. “This is the best-loved state, and it’s in the heart of the American West.”So Murphey decided to put on a modern version of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows that traveled the globe beginning in 1883. Buffalo Bill made entertainment out of cowboy and Indian culture, Murphey said, and his shows toured the states and Europe for many years.Murphey’s own incarnation, which he named WestFest, began at Copper Mountain but has traveled over the past 19 years to Steamboat Springs, Vail and Denver. Last year was the festival’s first in Snowmass Village as part of a three-year agreement.”I think he wanted the festival to be in the mountains where it belongs, and you can’t beat our stage,” said Susan Hamley, Snowmass Village marketing director.The festival’s events begin today and run through Sunday, including breakfast trail rides on horseback with Murphey, his wife and daughters, an exhibitor mall and fine arts show in the Bedford Ballroom, off the Snowmass Mall near Aspen Sports, and “Mountain Man, Cowboy & Indian Camps” on Fanny Hill. There are American Indian powwows, readings of cowboy poetry and Western swing dances. The event also includes daily musical performances including Murphey himself, Craig Morgan, Ian Tyson and Dan Seals.Although Murphey said it “sounds so boring” to say that he’s trying to keep the heritage of the Old West alive, he admits that celebrating the arts, culture and music of the West is important to him.”People right now in the West are plugging into the traditions of the roots and culture of the West and bringing new things to the table,” he said. That’s everything from more advanced horse training techniques to contemporary Western art and music.Murphey was born in Dallas but now spends his time between homes in Texas, New Mexico and Wisconsin, where his wife has a horse training business. The movement West in the United States is something that began with Lewis & Clark and continues today, he said.”I’ve always had the same goal of helping people who live and were born in the West celebrate their culture, and helping outsiders come and understand it,” he said.He considers the festival education and entertainment, he said, and anyone – country music fans or not – is welcome to head to Snowmass this weekend and learn about the culture of the Wild West.”You don’t have to have a cowboy hat – this is about checking out someone else’s lifestyle,” he said.Hamley said Snowmass Village is a picturesque location for the festival, but also a fitting place for the celebration because of the town’s ranching heritage. She added that they’re hoping to pick up some visitor traffic because of the Fourth of July weekend.”We expect a lot of families and empty nesters – there are people who have been following this festival for years,” she said.Tickets are $39 for a one-day pass, or $79 for all three days, and children under 12 are free. For a complete schedule or reservations, call 1-800-766-9627 or visit Havlen’s e-mail address is


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