The Wildlife West Music Festival is wheeling in Grammy-nominated folk musician John McCutcheon and more than 10 other acoustic acts. If somehow you get bored of listening to McCutcheon, a man Johnny Cash called "the most impressive instrumentalist I've ever heard," you can always go gawk at a mountain lion.
For the seventh year in a row, the festival takes place at the zoo / animal refuge known as Wildlife West—arguably the crown jewel of Edgewood. "You don't just have to listen to music, which is, of course, very enjoyable," explains festival producer Richard Eager. "You can go see the animals as well."
McCutcheon is the headliner, and rightfully so. The Wisconsin native has always been able to weave a good yarn and coax melodies from a whole mess of instruments. "John McCutcheon is a storyteller," Eager asserts. "His songs are very touching."
The festival begins with a barn dance hosted by Syd Masters and the Swing Riders in the zoo's covered amphitheater on Friday night. Saturday is packed with regional and local players, including Hot Club of Santa Fe, Squash Blossom Boys, Round the House and The Badly Bent. Sunday features Coyote Crossing, Triple L Band and Lady Fingers.
When the festival started seven years ago, Eager says all the bands were bluegrass outfits. This year, you can find Celtic, Western swing and folk sprinkled into the grass. "We've opened up the types of music," Eager says. "It's all geared toward young and old."
Eager plans to welcome 1,500 people through the gates during the weekend-long event. Not all of them, he acknowledges, will come for the music. Youngsters can also get their faces painted or pluck a rabbit out of Howardini the Magician's hat. Then there are the bears, cougars, wolves and other creatures who call Wildlife West home.
McCutcheon and bluegrass bastion The Badly Bent will both teach workshops on Saturday, and on Sunday, fiddlers will go finger-to-finger in a fiddling contest. Folks are welcome to camp for free on Friday and Saturday nights.
Eager says he hopes Duke City families will make the 20-minute drive to Edgewood. "We have a loyal following that comes out every year," Eager says. "I'd like to see some new folks from Albuquerque come out. I think they'll really enjoy it."
Wildlife West Music Festival
87 North Frontage Road, Edgewood
Friday, Aug. 7, to Sunday, Aug. 9
Tickets: Barn dance $10, Saturday $19, Sunday $14, weekend pass, $30
Tickets at wildlifewest.org or the gate
For directions and a full schedule of bands, visit wildlifewest.org