Inspired by a life changing visit to the Kerrville Folk Festival, I became obsessed (Possessed?) that every music festival needed a vibrant campground music scene. So I did my very first campground song circle at Falcon Ridge. I think the year was 1994. I knew the weather could be changeable, so I brought two or three smallish tarps we could play under. I don’t remember any other public circles, but I didn’t look too hard. We had a handful of musicians and a dozen or so listeners, I felt like it was a success. I did the same later that year at the Rocky Mountain folks festival. Them seemed surprised there, because of the chilly nights, but we had a lot of fun.
Using multiple tarps was bad. The junctions always leaked. So, the following year, I searched for a BIG tarp. I found one at Sam’s Club. Utilitarian that I am, I never paid heed that it was orange. But the Orange became our trademark because it is so rare. We are very easy to spot in a sea of green, blue, white, and silver tarps. I fabricated a very dicey Rube Goldberg setup of ropes, 2×2’s and PVC piping. We used this for nearly 20 years in Colorado before I bought a nice metal frame. I taught at Song School from the very first year, so we also used the BOT there. We outgrew the small Tarp at Falcon Ridge and in 2000, I bought a much larger tarp (20’x30′) and a nice frame for the east coast. Because they are so rare, I had to have the new Orange Tarp special made. It cost me nearly a thousand bucks. The classic Big Orange Tarp moved to Colorado to live with Steve and Kristen Clark, and later John Becker. Crowds continued to swell, we had fabulous nights. Bill Nash, who runs the tarp with me in Colorado, has hundreds of hours of recordings from our evenings there. We fantasize about one day getting the collection into the Library of Congress.
Several years ago I got a really horrible job as a medical courier and couldn’t get enough time off to do the Tarp at Falcon Ridge. At the same time, I was blessed with an offer to become one of the festival Emcees. I love doing it and they like me, so that continues. But this year I felt compelled to bring the Big Orange Tarp back to Falcon Ridge, strengthening our support of the Grassy Hill/Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase performers, who had always received preferential treatment at the BOT. Grassy Hill is an official sponsor of the Big Orange Tarp for the first time in 2016. We hope for an ongoing relationship. We are back and better than ever. I have made several tarp upgrades including high tech tarp hold downs and a sweet solar power system to power our lights and keyboards. We also have moved to a super new location down in the Flats, just off the main road up the hill and about 150 yards south of the mainstage. I could not be more pleased. We have added a crackerjack house band at the Big Orange Tarp, featuring some of the best musicians I know: George Wurzbach (keyboards), Eric Lee (Violin, Mandolin, Guitar), Dirje Childs (Cello), and David Glaser (Guitar, anything with strings). We are hoping to also get Mark Dann, Brad Yoder, and Jason Rafalak to sit in.
I am not publishing a full, timed schedule ahead of the festival because our format is very organic. I program the strongest music I can find and we try to avoid dead air as much as possible. We will try to feature each of the Emerging Artists at least once. We have cherry picked a number of artists from the Falcon Ridge mainstage and the lounge stage. And we will feature a few perennial Big Orange Tarp favorites like Rachael Kilgour and Dan Pelletier and original songs by our house band. As always, the audience has our famous Big Orange Tarp “Double Your Money Back” guarantee. I may redouble that this year. (Admission price to the BOT is always free) But seriously, it’s going to be great. We hope you will come and see us. We will be playing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and possibly even Sunday night if enough artists and listeners stay over.
Here is a sampling of some of our guests: