Colorado public radio station to become owner of two local folk festivals

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band singing to crowd

Michael Pierce Photography

Nahko & Medicine for the People performs at the Four Corners Folk Festival in 2018.

Public radio station KSUT in Ignacio, Colo., will assume ownership of two annual music festivals Sept. 30 as part of an agreement with local nonprofit organization FolkWest.

No money will change hands as part of the arrangement. KSUT Executive Director Tami Graham said that the transfer of the Four Corners Folk Festival and the Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrass Festival, both three-day events held in Pagosa Springs, Colo., was “an incredible donation” to the station.

The organizations had developed a relationship through a partnership of more than two decades, with KSUT sponsoring FolkWest in exchange for live studio sessions featuring artists playing for the festivals. 

“My biggest goal with the acquisition of the festivals is just to maintain a really high level of production quality and a great experience for the musicians as well as the attendees,” Graham said. “… It’ll be this wonderful augmentation of what we already do.”

The decision was made after FolkWest Executive Director Crista Munro took on a new position heading the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Ore. According to the Pagosa Springs Sun, Munro and her husband moved to Oregon in 2011 and have returned to Pagosa Springs every summer to run the festivals.

“When I was offered the job with Sisters Folk Festival, it was a bittersweet moment for me, knowing that my chapter at the helm of FolkWest would be ending,” Munro said in a post on KSUT’s website. “KSUT always seemed like a natural choice to take over our events. They do an amazing job with everything they produce, and Tami Graham brings a ton of live music production experience to the table. When they said yes to our proposal, I knew that the transition would be a smooth one.” 

Munro and her husband will remain involved with the festivals as independent contractors for two years, working with the station to help book musicians and acting as consultants for future programming at the events.

Munro told Current that KSUT “believed in the vision” she and her husband had for the festivals. “If it were anyone else taking this on, I would be a lot more nervous,” she said. “It does feel in a lot of ways like turning over my child, but they’re going to do a great job.”

In an interview with the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society, Munro said that the Folk N’ Bluegrass festival brings in about 2,000 attendees per day and the Four Corners Folk Festival draws nearly double that.

KSUT will hire a festival and events director, a new full-time position at the station, who will produce the festivals as well as other special events and concerts KSUT hosts. Graham expects to post a job listing within the next two weeks and to make a hire in October.

KSUT does not plan to make any “significant changes” to the festivals but does aim to expand FolkWest’s Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrass Jam Camps, which provide three days of music classes for adults and children.

“There’s a lot of grant funding available for music education … to support bringing in world-class stringed instrument musicians, for example, that want to want to teach and work with adults and youth,” said Graham.

Graham said that apart from keeping alive a tradition in Pagosa Springs, the festivals will also provide new opportunities for fundraising, increasing listenership and community engagement for the station.

“Having a bigger presence in Pagosa Springs with these festivals in and of itself, even if we did nothing else, will really support our fundraising capacity,” she said. “… This is just a perfect fit.”

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