NewWestFest filled Old Town Square this weekend with a crowd ranging from incoming CSU freshmen, some with parents still in tow, to families pushing strollers to Fort Collins natives who came to see their favorite local band play for free on one of the four live music stages.
The festival, sponsored by the local Bohemian Foundation and Michelob Ultra, featured 40 Colorado bands over the course of the weekend, culminating with 1970s funk legends WAR headlining the main Linden Street Stage Saturday night.
The other three stages, Old Town, Chestnut and Library Park, hosted a range of local music, from bluegrass to ska to rock and roll.
In addition to live music, there were plenty of other activities for the crowd, estimated at several thousand, to enjoy.
Visitors could sample food or purchase arts and crafts from one of the more than 300 vendors in booths lining the streets. They could also drink at one of the two beer gardens or check out the carnival and Kid's World.
The event was free and open to the public and judging from the crowd, people came for a variety of reasons.
The streets were thick with strollers, dogs, bikes, dreadlocks, tie-dyes, crew cuts, business suits, fishnet stockings, studded belts, eyeliner and hair dye. The ages varied from newborn babies to septuagenarians.
Teeny-bopper high school girls rocked out, skater boys goofed off and CSU students grooved to jam bands, while parents looked on.
Tommy Ray, a bartender at the Starlight, was working the door at Elliott's for this busy event.
"The crowd this weekend has been very diverse, very mellow and fun-loving. And the Linden Street Stage has definitely had the rockingest sets all weekend," Ray said.
It was the biggest, with colorful fabric paintings hung on either side and behind the stage.
Bands that played include local favorites the 3 Peas, Wasabi and 12 Cents for Marvin on the side stages, as well as Boulder bands such as rock n' roll trio Rose Hill Drive, and Kyle Hollingsworth (the keyboard player for the String Cheese Incident) and friends, who pleased the crowd by bringing out an unannounced "friend" right away: surprise guest Michael Kang (the mandolin player for SCI, also spotted hanging out during Rose Hill's set), on the main stage.
The crowd grooved and danced, growing steadily throughout the day on Saturday, despite (or maybe because of) the overcast sky.
Nick Rivera , 13, whose father plays in one of the bands that was featured at the festival, said, "It's all been good, but I really liked the rock band [Rose Hill Drive]. They sound like they're going to be famous!"
His friend, Alex Gitter, 13, added, "They reminded me of Led Zeppelin. They were good, but I came to see the guy from String Cheese Incident. I've seen SCI a couple of times, so I thought I'd come check it out."
After, Rose Hill Drive stood at the backstage fence, signing autographs for any and all comers. "This place has a cool vibe," said guitar player Daniel Sproul , "We've played a lot of street festivals, but this one is very relaxed, everyone's having fun."
Between sets, the crowd would quickly clear, dispersing into the local bars and eateries whose business boomed throughout the day, as stagehands scurried to get one band's gear off and another's on. People really started dancing to Hollingsworth and friends' rendition of the Average White Band's "Pickin' up the Pieces" and later on WAR closed the night with some slick funk, dazzling the crowd with a colorful, bejeweled keyboard and flashy clothes.
For more information on the event, and other events downtown, visit www.downtownfortcollins.com.