After two decades of managing the Mountain Harvest Festival, the long-running creative board has passed the torch to the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition.
The announcement came in a March 21 statement on the popular Paonia events’ social media which cited challenges from the pandemic as reason for the board’s dissolution.
“The Mountain Harvest Festival has had an incredible run for over two decades. Just like the rest of the world, we’ve had unprecedented challenges in the last two years,” the statement said. “The Mountain Harvest Creative Board has decided that the Mountain Harvest Festival, the North Fork Valley and all of our supporters deserve to have the best possible experience.”
The decision to transfer the festival’s management isn’t a new one, according to Amy DeLuca, theNorth Fork Valley Creative Coalition (NFCC) Board president and the festival’s newest event director.
In fact, the two entities have spent a number of years discussing the possibility of joining efforts.
After last year, DeLuca commented, it seemed evident that people were burned out. The NFCC approached the festival’s creative board to revisit the collaboration.
“We’re super psyched,” DeLuca said. “We’re really looking forward to giving it some fresh energy and also to elevate the festival. It kind of lost some steam over the last few years–it takes a lot of people to produce an event like that.”
DeLuca indicated that “volunteer fatigue” could be a reason the festival will now be produced by a professional event team.
The new festival board, she said, felt it was time to pay professionals on their team to make the event happen. The change would still leave open opportunities for community engagement and volunteering, though.
“We really want people to feel like they can continue to participate, but the bigger heavy lifting will happen from our production team,” said DeLuca. “Sometimes festivals that are long running need some fresh energy to come in and keep them vibrant.”
The creative coalition nonprofit may be looking to incorporate new elements to the regional favorite, but plans to maintain community favorites, such as the festival’s tradition of nonstop music and highlighting local harvest.
The new board plans to balance attention with the downtown Paonia business communities and park activities while continuing traditions with elements such as the farm and wine tours. The festival will also introduce more art to the community–a nod to the nonprofit’s work in the North Fork area.
Festival guests can still expect annual drink and local eats features, as well as the Sunday farmers market, a key component of the harvest festival that highlights local farmers, DeLuca pointed out.
Valley Organic Growers Association, or VOGA, is joining the team to help with the farmers market and create workshops, as well as gather farmers for the annual event.
The organization will also assist the coalition with the farm and wine tours.
“They are an integral part of the valley in terms of supporting all the farmers and the growers and the producers–and so that’s really great to have their support,” DeLuca said.
She added that the festival is also an opportunity for the coalition to showcase its expertise gained from previous juried arts and craft fairs over the years.
The coalition’s professional event team consists of Rob Miller from Pickin Productions, Judd Kleinman of Double Shot Productions, Shawn Larson from Chrysalis Barrel Aged Beer and Susie Kaldis, the coalition’s marketing officer.
Miller produces events across the Western Slope, booking talent for events like MHF, and previously, the free concert series in Ridgway and Paonia.
Kleinman is an operations coordinator with experience working with Country Jam and Telluride Blues and Brews. His specialties include building stages, audio production and managing all aspects of producing a large-scale event.
Larson will spearhead as a local drink and food coordinator, bringing his experience as a brewer for Big B’s Hard Ciders and Chrysalis Barrel Aged Beer.
DeLuca herself has over 20 years of event production experience in addition to her 7-year-old Paonia business, Cirque Boutique and Gallery.
As the name suggests, the NFCC is focused on supporting its artists through signature events such as its holiday art fair.
The holiday fair, as well as street fairs, helped support the coalition’s membership through the pandemic, providing more places for artists to sell their wares, DeLuca noted.
The new board hopes to incorporate this mission into the spirit of the harvest festival by including a juried arts and crafts fair featuring regional artists.
“With the mix of local and regional music, North Fork has a lot of really talented players and so we definitely want to keep it Paonia-centric and really show off our locals,” said DeLuca.
The festival’s new board is now looking for sponsorships and asking donors to increase their donations this year, since planning was delayed due to the transition.
“We’re the only organization in the North Fork Valley that promotes economic development for all of our makers, and what we call the creative sector that the coalition is helping to facilitate,” DeLuca said, adding that the coalition’s broad range of services is rooted in the valley’s unique creativity. “You have the creative arts of making wine and beer and making jewelry, being a fine art painter, sculptor.. that’s really what makes us so special and we just want to show that off.”