The Harvest Festival All-Star Band will close out the 18th annual Mountain Harvest Festival Sunday evening, Sept. 30.
The tradition of closing the festival with an all-star jam dates back to the first festival in 2001, said festival co-founder Rick Stockton. The festival began as a three-day CD release party and celebration of the fall harvest. In its early days, the festival was held downtown, a portion of Grand Avenue was blocked off, and a stage was placed in the middle of the street.
The idea was to gather local talent on the stage for a final jam session, said Stockton.
Among this year's all-stars are singers Ellen Hutto and Gustavo Brett, drummer Justin Hess, guitarist Carrie Liz Williams, bass player John Keller, and Jim Veazey on keyboard ("he's got some real chops," said Stockton of Veazey). Stockton and wife Helen Highwater will also take the stage, along with a host of other talented musicians.
All-star musicians are true professionals, said Stockton. "They aren't the ones sitting at home playing on their couch. They're the ones living in or near Paonia who are out there playing music all of the time."
The session will be dedicated to Mike Gwinn, a long-time local and consummate lifelong musician who played or was otherwise involved in the festival since the beginning. A former Mountain Harvest Creative board member, Gwinn organized the 2017 festival and also organized the all-star band the last three or four years. "He was always willing to help," said Stockton.
Gwinn passed away in December after a brief battle with cancer. He "was a great guitar player and singer," said Stockton. "He knew a lot of songs."
The All-Star jam takes place from 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday, on the "Howard Berkman Memorial Stage" at Paonia Town Park. A perennial presence at the festival, Berkman died unexpectedly in October 2011. The stage was dedicated in his honor during the 2016 Festival All-Star Jam.
"He's still missed," said Stockton. "If he was here he'd be on that all-star stage for sure."