14erFest continued to climb in size and scope in its third year, which came to Buena Vista and its surrounding mountain splendor this past weekend.
“Man, it was good, it was so much bigger than last year,” said Marcus Trusty, who co-organized the event with Susan Wood. The festival sold over 200 event passes and, based on conversations Trusty had with local business owners, he estimates that roughly 2,000 people attended the festival.
Last year, Wood estimated that 1,200 to 1,400 attended, that number itself being double the attendance at the inagural festival.
“Year one we had 12 vendors, last year we had 31 and this year we ended with 52 vendors in the street closure vendor village event,” Trusty said as an illustration of how the shoulder season festival has quickly grown.
“It had much more of a festival feel this year,” Trusty said. “We had more music scheduled than we did last year, it was more of a broad spectrum of styles.”
Music playing through the night on Main Street included bluegrass trio Stillhouse Junkies from Durango, jam group Flash Mountain Flood and multipurpose rockers Amoramora. Booking was done with assistance from Ark Valley Live Music’s Derek Donnell.
“All the trip outings were well attended. Everybody had a good time out and about,” Trusty said. “We run two races every year and this year we had more participanys in the races than we had in the last 2 years,” Trusty said.
This year, the event swapped out the early-morning masochism of the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb for a 14K run through Midland Hill’s ever-expanding system of trails.
“One of the most popular things – and I had a feeling – was the strider bike race on Sunday with the little kids. With locals, too, which was really cool to see. A lot of local familes brought their kids down to participate in that … We had that right after the 14K race on Sunday.
“It was in the street closure right in the middle of vendor village. The 14K was super cool and a lot of people enjoyed that, but honestly the highlight of the day was that little kids’ strider race because it was in vendor village and all the vendors were interested, all the sponsors were interested and obviously everybody that was down there was paying attention.”
Trusty said that one aspect of 14erFest that could account for its steady growth is that the vendors and sponsors who sign up to man booths actually like coming to it. Foot traffic at the vendor village hub can be counted on to be pretty low during the day, when festival attendees are out recreating in the mountains, so the representatives of the companies involved in the festival are encouraged to take part in the festival as well.
“The vendor hours are set up so that all of the vendors and participants can go out during the day and experience the public lands around Buena Vista, all the trail activities and then everybody comes back together down on Main Street,” Trusty said. “So a vendor’s not expected to be there from sunup till sundown for three days straight and just talk to people and just try to get the word out or peddle their products. They actually have an opportunity to experience the trail systems with participants, then everybody comes back.”
Trsuty said that he’s aiming to bring together a goal that’s been in his mind since the first 14erFest. Here’s a hint: it’s right there in the name.
“We added a lot of stuff this year, so I didn’t try and get it permitted, but something we’re looking at for next year is to do a fourteener summit,” Trusty said. “That requires an extensive amount of planning and logistics and getting things set up, but that is one of the top goals for the programming options next year.”
Trusty doesn’t know yet which peak they’ll go for, but the festival already takes attendees within a few hundred feet of two fourteener summits in 4x4 rides up the Mount Princeton chalet road and the Assault on Antero mountain bike downhill.
“That’s a very rewarding day, whether you ride, drive or are just along to observe everybody having a good time,” he said.
Led by Doug DeLong of Well Sorted automotive and Matt Wells of Black Burro Bikes, the Mount Antero ride represents the pinnacle of 14erFest’s goal of user group collaboration.
A caravan of off-road vehicles loaded up 10 mountain bikes and led cyclists up the rocky mining road to a saddle just beneath Antero’s summit.
There the riders embarked on a singular downhill experience, connecting the Little Browns Creek Trail to the Colorado trail for about 5,000 feet in elevation drop over 6 miles.
In addition to the fun and games, Trusty said that over 100 volunteer hours were logged on two stewardship projects over the weekend.
On Saturday, about 20 volunteers worked for three hours on the Green Timber Gulch trailhead above Cottonwood Creek, and on Sunday, 15 volunteers worked for two hours to help rehabilitate the river walk along the Arkansas River, which suffered damage from the high water this summer.
“Everyone was really kind and courteous and out having a good time,” said Earl Richmond, the Parks and Recreation director for the town of Buena Vista. “The camping looked really organized and structured in town and didn’t impose a big impact at all.”