14erFest might be best summed up in a Henry Ford quote: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
Perhaps this best describes the efforts of a coalition of Buena Vista business owners as they brainstormed a shoulder season event for the town, celebrating the love of the many outdoor recreational opportunities available in our valley.
Co-coordinator Susan Wood has been a key driving force that brought the idea to fruition this weekend. “What started off as a round table discussion has turned into the inaugural shoulder season event known as the 14erFest.”
This weekend will offer diverse interest groups the opportunity to come together to enjoy volunteer led activities and clinics, featuring mountain biking, hiking, yoga, trail running, off-roading, and fly-fishing.
The planning team, founded by Marcus Trusty, Dave Volpe, Brian Galyon, Lenny Eckstein, Dave Blazer, Earl Richmond and Wood, has a two-fold purpose: To offer outdoor activities for all interest groups and to help keep trails open.
Wood says, All events, activities, and clinics are free to the public.
The beneficiaries of the weekend are Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North and local user group coalitions including BV Trails, CORE, GARNA and others.
Wood says the planning for the festival began last March and has been non-stop busy.
Richmond joined Wood as co-coordinator mid-stream. “His knowledge and expertise from his experience with CKS PaddleFest have been so helpful,” Wood says. So far, about 20 volunteers have signed up to help lead the free clinics and tours.
“We anticipate a great turnout based on the feedback we have received so far, but we are also realistic, given this is our first year. It can only grow.”
The event, which starts with a town party Friday, is to encourage local participation as well as drawing visitors from the Front Range.
Wood says, “We’ve advertised on social media, flyers in the cities, and publications in Mountain Town Magazine and Elevation Outdoors magazine.”
The town party includes a Vendor Expo, Beer Garden, Live Music at the Watershed Stage, and later in the evening at The Lariat.
On Saturday and Sunday, a Vendor Village will be stationed in the Simple Eatery/Watershed lot, with local vendors selling merchandise and to-go food options from the Bearded Lady and Simple Eatery. The beer garden, sponsored by the Ark Valley Libation Society has concocted 14erFest Brew, called AVLS Vol. 1, which will be available in cans or kegs.
Throughout the weekend, music and meet-up groups will be up and down East Main Street.
“People can hit the trails together, enjoy clinics throughout the day, and even participate in the Sleeping Indian Hill Climb or 28k Trail Run.”
Wood, originally from Florida and South Carolina, started guiding for Noah’s Ark Rafting Company in 2013, during her college years. For three summers she guided backpacking, rock-climbing, and white-water rafting trips.
“My favorite part of taking out a group of middle school or high school girls was watching the transformation in their confidence, bonding, sense of over-coming challenges, and applying those skills to real life afterwards.”
Wood is also in her second year of volunteering for The Girls on the Run, held at Avery-Parsons Elementary School, and spearheaded by Michelle Cunningham.
During her college years at North Greenville University, where she studied psychology, Wood also used her writing skills in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), as a digital content specialist, contracting with Bisk Education and US News Education.
“I’ve always loved to write, and I also took business classes on the side,” she says.
This experience led her to a 1-year position with the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce in 2015. “I really loved being able to help market Buena Vista,” Wood says. “And it was a great way for me to get to know the local businesses and the strengths of our town.”
Currently Wood is working at The Trailhead, where she is the marketing manager. “I really enjoy working to help promote who we are as a business, and working on the website.”
For more information and a complete schedule of events on the 14’er Fest, go to 14erfest.com.