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Rock Ledge Ranch depends on Holly Berry House Folk Art Festival as major fundraiser

September 13, 2017 Updated: September 13, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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Gabriella Dillon, 9, has her face painted by Urban Camouflage artist Carol Horen on the first day of the annual Holly Berry House Folk Art Festival at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site outside the Garden of the Gods Friday, September 14, 2012. The festival will run through the weekend. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette

For those not in the know, a living, breathing natural history museum stands in our midst.

Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, with its Garden of the Gods backdrop, was built in 1875 by Colorado Springs founder Gen. William J. Palmer and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

As one might imagine, regular upkeep and restoration of the early 20th century estate is no small matter. That's where the Holly Berry House Folk Art Festival steps in.

For 33 of its 39 years, the popular, three-day juried arts and crafts festival held at Rock Ledge Ranch has been the ranch's major fundraiser, with admission proceeds going toward ranch restoration. Past projects have included restoration and furnishing of two houses, replacement of an authentic 1880s varmint-proof chicken house, the purchase of three handmade elk teepees and rebuilding of a windmill that blew over in the 1930s.

"I'm a crazy history buff," said Kathy Read, festival coordinator and owner of Holly Berry House in Old Colorado City. "I've traveled the country going to historic sites. All of a sudden there's one in Colorado Springs, and the city has purchased it and decided to turn it into a living history museum. I'm going to ask if they're interested in teaming up with Holly Berry for a fundraiser. If not, I won't do (the festival) anymore."

Read was about to give it all up after spending seven years outgrowing other local venues, but the city agreed to her offer. Since then, 24,000 to 27,000 art lovers flock to the fair each year, which includes collectibles, antiques, jewelry, sculpture, wood carvings and more by more than 150 artists from around the country. Prices run the gamut, from inexpensive items for kids to pricey jewelry and fine art. It runs Friday through Sunday.

"I love creating opportunities for artistic people," said Read.

The nationally known event also offers plenty of food, live music by singer songwriter Jody Adams and guided tours of the property.

"We want to keep this beautiful place alive and well and progressing," Read said.

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

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