Updated: January 9, 2014 at 8:27 am
La Foret Conference and Retreat Center is getting out of the music festival business, but MeadowGrass - the three-day festival held each year at the Black Forest venue - will go on at the same time and place.
Questions about the annual festival's future arose after La Foret officials said they would no longer be in charge of planning and producing the event.
Instead, a new nonprofit, Rocky Mountain Highway, will produce MeadowGrass and lease La Foret so the show can continue.
"They value the festival and wanted it to continue, but did not want to be liable for it," said Steve Harris, who is head of Rocky Mountain Highway, a division of the nonprofit Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
It's a natural fit for Harris, who has been involved with MeadowGrass since it began in 2009 and served as its director since 2010. Heather Rousseau, operations manager at La Foret, also has been on the festival committee as a La Foret representative snce 2009, and she'll continue to do so.
Harris said Rocky Mountain Highway also will take over management of other events, including the Friends House Concert Series, which has been operated for about 15 years by Whitney and Marc Luckett.
Moving MeadowGrass under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) allows Rocky Mountain Highway to use grants to help fund the event, Harris said. And all donations to the organization are tax deductible, he said.
Harris also said his organization wants to acquire more business sponsors than La Foret was able to. Sponsors help offset the cost of the festival in exchange for having publicity throughout the event.
"The real challenge has been that we have strived to keep ticket prices affordable," Harris said. "Typically you can expect to cover only 60 percent to 70 percent from ticket sales, and the rest has to come from grants and the business community, and that has not done well in the past."
Harris said creating a separate dedicated account for the music festival under the Pikes Peak Community Foundation will create a clearer accounting structure to better track income and expenses. Last year, a third or more of the 24 bands that played at MeadowGrass came from out of state, creating additional expenses that needed to be tracked as well as the reoccurring costs for security, portable latrines and other expenses.
"But we think it came close to breaking even," he said.
Harris said no firm attendance numbers are available from last year's event because there was "no mechanism in place to track attendance figures." He believes about 1,000 people attended each of the three days.
Harris has worked as a volunteer radio disc jockey at KRCC since 1995. In 2007, he started a show called The Grass Roots Revival, which put him "in the middle of the MeadowGrass project."
Rocky Mountain Highway is just starting to plan for this year's festival, so no bands had been booked as of Wednesday.
Early-bird tickets for this year's event will be available Jan. 18 at rockymountainhighway.org and meadowgrass.org. Prices start at $30 for a day pass and $60 for a full weekend pass, and are good until March 16, Harris said. After that, prices increase to $40 for a day pass and $80 for the weekend. Camping prices will remain the same as last year: $35 for a tent site and $10 per person.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275