Pickin' Productions' 12th annual Pickin' in the Park free summer music series opens Thursday at Paonia Town Park.

Music begins at 6 p.m. sharp with "Six @ 6," featuring six songs by the North Fork duo Hard Pressed. The multi-instrumental, multi-talented husband-and-wife duo of Cory Obert and Andrea Lecos merged in the Colorado mountains to create a blend of old-time string band and Americana-folkgrass. Both original and traditional, their music delivers rich, heartfelt vocals that pull the listener into their music.

Following Hard Pressed, another local favorite returns to the Howard Berkman Memorial Stage. Honey Don't is the musical union of Bill Powers and Shelley Gray, the duo also well known in the North Fork area as one-half of Paonia's old-time bluegrass band, Sweet Sunny South. The group performed together at local and regional venues from the late 1990s to 2010, recording five albums along the way, including a live album, and playing many a Pickin' in the Park concert. "It's kind of the biggest party around," said Powers.

About five years ago Powers and Gray moved with their two boys to Bend, Ore. Folks from Portland and Eugene, Ore., head to Bend if they want sunshine, and there's hardly a week something isn't happening, said Powers. Between skiing at Mt. Bachelor and the area's music scene, "Our schedule is about as full as we can handle."

We've been wanting to come back to Paonia for some time, he said. While everything they need in Bend has come to them, "Colorado doesn't come to us."

They still manage a few visits, but for the duo, "This is a major homecoming for us," said Powers. They plan a little on-stage Sweet Sunny South surprise with Obert and Lecos and Rob Miller, all of whom have made music together for years. Miller, along with a group of friends, is the founder of Pickin' Productions.

It's not a reunion of the whole Sweet Sunny South group, at least not this time around, said Powers. "We had a lot of fun creating and writing and playing music and having a good time, and we hope to do it again."

Headliner act I Draw Slow takes the stage at 7 p.m. A group Powers said he discovered years ago as a volunteer DJ for KVNF public radio, siblings Dave Holden on guitar and Louise Holden on vocals has been writing and performing together for more than 20 years. In 2008 they were joined by violinist Adrian Hart, clawhammer banjo player Colin Derham, and double bassist Konrad Liddy to form I Draw Slow. Since then they've played across Europe and at numerous American festivals including Wintergrass in Bellevue, Wash., RockyGrass in Lyons, and the Edmonton Folk Folk Music Festival in Canada.

Miller and Pickin' Productions have brought quality music to Paonia since 2000. Over the years they've added the Ridgway Concert Series, launched the Mountain Air Music Series in Ouray in 2012, and in 2017 established the Free Summer Concert Series in Moab, Utah in conjunction with the Moab Folk Festival. Pickin' now offers concert series at Delicious Orchards in Paonia and the Mad Dog Cafe in Crawford. Last year they began a summer series at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville and started booking bands year round at the Pubic House in Crested Butte.

Held four Thursdays in August, Pickin' in the Park now offers four free summer concerts at the Howard Berkman Memorial Stage in Paonia Town Park. Pickin' Productions goal is to feature some of the very best national (and sometimes international) acts, both established and up and coming, along with strong regional and national openers.

Each of this year's concerts opens with "Six @ 6," six songs by a local performer. The Aug. 8 featured performance is the Bluegrass Offenders. On Aug. 15, Zeb Etter takes the stage, and on Aug. 21, Luke Powers.

Pickin' concerts offer more than music. The North Fork Valley Creative Coalition creates a space for kids to be creative. They offer face painting, hula hoops, costumes and lots of surprises. The creative space is located adjacent to the playground -- a distance from the music that isn't too loud, but that is close enough that the parents can still be near their kids and enjoy the show.

Concerts are great for family picnics, or for enjoying local flavors from one of several area vendors. This year the options include fresh flavors from Blessed, and barbecue-esqe goodness served up by The Living Farm. There's Tim the Pie Guy, and Surfin' Salmon, offering terrific tacos. Remedy Cafe offers fresh-pressed juice and delicious dinners. The KVNF beer and wine garden will provide local and regional craft beer, a variety of West Elk wines, and local hard ciders fresh from Delicious Orchards.

Concert-goers are asked to leave glass containers at home and keep dogs on a leash. No smoking of any kind is allowed during concerts.

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