Crestone is a quiet, mystical place. Surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the small community is home to an Ashram, a Hindu temple, a monastery and other retreat centers, as well as artists, writers, healers and international spiritual and environmental leaders. Deer graze in fields, eagles soar above and a horse named Cinder sometimes wanders the streets. Time almost stands still in this town known as Shambala.
But come the first weekend of every August, the area explodes in music, song and dance at the Crestone Music Festival called CrestFest. For three days the local golf course morphs into a concert venue with non-stop music playing on two covered stages at opposite ends of the field.
Jury-selected artisans and importers, palm readers, a variety of food, spirits from a regional winery and microbrewery, rug and antique auctions and children’s activities add to the festivities. There’s even a pie-eating contest and limbo and wood-chopping competitions. Workshops on drumming for kids are offered in the children’s zone. Although more and more tents seem to pop up on the fringes of the field every year, it’s the music that ultimately draws the crowds — locals, San Luis Valley neighbors and visitors from around the state.
The multi-ethnic music of every genre from across the globe offers something for every age and stage. For example, the Taiko Drummers from Japan produce an amazing example of strength and percussion rhythms created on huge drums. The sizzling sounds of Sabroso, a Cuban salsa band, invariably gets the crowd dancing barefoot on the lawn. And the soulful Middle Eastern group Sadaqah captures attention with its sensual dance. Whether it’s hot sounds or mellow tunes, bluegrass or blues, the music is the backbone of the best outdoor party of the summer.
The fest kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with four acts playing until 10 p.m. Saturday performances run from 10:45 a.m. until 9:30 that night. When dark descends on Saturday, a stunning performance of fire dancers and an impressive fireworks display bring the night to a close. Sunday morning wakes to music at 8 a.m. and fills the air until the festival ends at 7:30 p.m.
Regional performers and bands include Celtic musician and singer Loretta Thompson, pop-reggae act Judge Roughneck, Still Water Steel Drum Band, marimba ensemble Tobatana, Quickdraw Homegrown Music and funk’s Little Hercules. A slew of local groups, such as the down-home style of Heath & Alycia and the flute invocations of Bruce Becker, will entertain as well.
If You Go
For tickets and more information, go to crestfest.org or call 719-256-4533. You can book online or buy at the entrance, but the festival does sell out.
Crestone is halfway between Salida and Alamosa off Colorado 17 in the San Luis Valley. For area camping and lodging options and other things to do, contact Crestone Area Visitor’s Agency at 719-256-5210 or go to www.crestonevisit.com.
Colorado native Claudia Carbone is an award-winning ski and travel journalist and the author of the book “Women Ski.” She writes for local, national and international publications.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.