The Rocky Mountain Old Time Music Festival – Don’t call it Bluegrass

Support Northern Colorado Journalism

Show your support for North Forty News by helping us produce more content. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring more content to you.

Click to Donate

The Bryant and Brown Band rehearse in the parking lot with Mike Bryant on Banjo, Joe DeJarnette on Bass, Paul Brown on Fiddle and Vocals and Marcia Brown on Guitar. Video by Theresa Rose

The Ninth Annual Rocky Mountain Old-Time Music Festival is an event for and about musicians with an evening concert for those of us who just want to hear genuine, old-time music. Sponsored by the Central Rockies Old Time Music Association (CROMA), among others, this is an event celebrating traditional American music. As with Blugrass music, the banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and string bass are the most common instruments. Old Time Music, however, is not the same as bluegrass. Long before Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys topped the charts with “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, this music was being played on front porches, barn dances and county fairs throughout the U.S. It’s officially called “Old-Time Music” rolling westward from the Ozarks and Appalachia during the Gold Rush in the 1800’s

Joanne Wisner holds a refurbished Ukelele

Held on the Parrish Ranch, just west of Berthoud, the Central Rockies Old-Time Music Association is devoted to preserving and sharing old-time music in the Central Rocky Mountain Region. Such music was popular from the 1800’s through the 1930s but not often recorded due to the rarity of recording devices, and instead was passed down from one generation to the next. The genre includes not only music but dancing as well, square dancing, contra dancing and flatfoot dancing,  a style of dance described as a fusion of the rhythms of Irish immigrants, Native Americans and black culture.

The Rocky Mounatin Music Festival holds numerous workshops during all three days of the event. These include guitar and fiddle lessons, Clawhammer banjo 1 and 2, Dance calling and flatfooting. Others are more intensive and specialized, such as the Ballads of Ola Belle Reed, TN Fiddle music, Little Dixie Fiddle Tunes and the Songs of Hazel and Alice.

The event was hosted by Central Rockies Old-time Music Association, a CO nonprofit. Bob Zuellig, who serves on the Central Rockies Board of Directors, works a day job as a fish biologist and had little time for comment. Other participants included Joanne Wisner and John Hatton selling refurbished and rebuilt ukuleles. Also present was a delegation from the Rocky Ridge Music Center, with facilities in Boulder, Denver and Estes Park. The faculty includes Colorado folk musicians, Dick Weisman and Harry Tuft, among others from other parts of the U.S.  This year’s American Roots Music Program, called “Make An Old Song Yours” takes place from August 18 through September 3. Applications and information may be found at:

All the music and dancing does work up an appetite. Thanks heavens for Austin Tacos out of Wellington, run by John De Los Santos and a saint her certainly was, serving up the freshest of tacos out of a truck promising to “Keep Tacos Weird”. Options included carnitas, chicken fajitas, ground beef, buffalo chicken      and grilled veggies.

Austin Tacos, fresh and GOOD, are served up by John De Los Santos of Wellington

A unique and educational event, The Old Time Country Music Festival is all about families. Children are not only welcome, they have moments on stage all to themselves and dance right along with the adults. With a whole new generation of audiences discovering the music of our forefathers, Old Time Music is right in step with the times. If you would like more information about CROMA and the Rocky Mountain Old-time Music Festival please visit


1 Comment

  1. I’ve been playing Old-time Music for 45+ years. This festival is well-organized, relaxed, family-friendly, community-focused, welcoming to newcomers, and has great music, from both the performers and all those who join in on the endless jams sessions. In a word, it is a fantastic, participatory event that I look forward to every year (this was my sixth). Any army of volunteers helps out, but Bob Zuellig is the mover-and-shaker of the festival, and he puts his heart and soul into making sure it happens every year, and that it keeps getting better (and it does). A big thank you to Bob for all his work and passion–it truly shows! And thank you North Forty News for running this story, and helping to build the community that is the foundation of Old-time Music.

Comments are closed.