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Oyster Ridge Music Festival
Kemmerer, WY 83101
Map & Directions
The Oyster Ridge Music Festival started in 1993 as the brain child of Keith Chasteen a local Forest Service employee and a picker of some repute. He wanted to find a home for the newly created Wyoming State Flatpick Guitar championship. The holder of this title could represent Wyoming at the National Flatpick Guitar championships held each year in Winfield, Kansas. He approached the local Chamber of Commerce and the Music Festival was born. Held each year in Kemmerer's beautifully unique Triangle Park, the early festivals were centered on a number of music contests which included Fiddle, Mandolin, and Banjo, all built around the State Flatpick contest. Keith struggled to bring the young festival together with the help of some friends like Robin Kessinger and others who brought some credibility from the world of serious pickin.
The festival hit a rough patch in 1998 with dwindling participation and low audience attendance. Keith and the Chamber went to some community organizations to recruit some help and save the festival. The Oyster Ridge BOCES/Kemmerer Outreach came on board with the Chamber and the Fossil Country Museum to form a steering committee. The newly formed partnership set about redesigning the festival concept. Everyone agreed that it had evolved into a private party held in public and something had to be done to get the crowds back. First and foremost the committee agreed that the festival should be FREE to the public. To attract the pickers, the Wyoming State Fingerpick Contest was added and prize money was increased to $500.00 for first place in the state contests, (see contest info). Along with a beefed up contestant arena, the committee decided to bring in some of the top new talent in the "Newgrass and Front Range Sound" categories, including the "Best New Band "winners from the Telluride festival. We added some great food and picked up "Fat Tire Ale" as the "Official Festival Brew" along with a sponsorship by the New Belgium Brewing Company and we were on our way.
Now many years later the Festival is bigger and better than ever. Last year we had over five thousand people attend from all over the region, which for a small venue makes for an intimate festival. Everybody can stake out a blanket or a lawn chair with a cooler and there's plenty of room to dance. Or, just wander around munching on a Navaho Taco or authentic Indonesian Eggroll while quaffing one of the great microbrews purchased from the beer trailers. Visit with the small groups of pickers jammin in the park or fire up your own instrument and group-up for the famous "Band Scramble". Anyway you slice it there's plenty to do from grampa down to the kiddies.
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