Note: This article is part of a monthly column written by Jonathan Toman that explores cultural organizations in the Pikes Peak region and the personalities that power them. Jonathan serves as the Peak Radar Manager for the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. PeakRadar.com connects you to over 4,500 local events and 400 creative groups — all in one beautiful website for the Pikes Peak region. Jonathan can be reached at email@example.com.
Ellen Fenter describes herself as an entrepreneur, which isn’t a word you often hear associated with a pastor.
“For me, [entrepreneur] means I have good ideas, but I’m kinda lazy,” she laughs.
One of those good ideas came to Fenter more than 10 years ago, when she arrived in Monument to interview for her current role as pastor of The Church at Woodmoor. Included as part of the church’s 18 acres is an outdoor pavilion. Fenter recalls thinking the space would be perfect for music and outdoor events. A few years later, Pickin’ on the Divide was born. The annual outdoor bluegrass festival returns to Limbach Park in downtown Monument on Aug. 17.
“I was bound and determined to do things at the church to build community,” she says. “And it wasn’t about the church, it was about getting to know the people around us.”
Music was the perfect way to begin. Fenter says art and music are ingrained in The Church at Woodmoor — an accomplished choir director, talented pianist, and skilled classical music crew are staples. Bluegrass added to the repertoire, fitting in with the look and feel of the area.
The festival soon outgrew the pavilion. Partners from the Tri-Lakes Lions Club and the Town of Monument joined in, and for the last couple years Limbach Park has hosted Pickin’ on the Divide. Between 400 and 500 people attended last year.
This year’s lineup features Out of Nowhere, the Flying W Wranglers, Tenderfoot Bluegrass, WireWood Station and Scott Slay and the Rail.
“It’s some of best bluegrass,” Fenter says. “My goodness, look at the talent that gets on that stage.”
In recent years, Fenter has been able to step back, enjoying the festival’s growth and “watching exceptionally good people run with it.” An all-volunteer committee runs the show, with representatives from all three partners. Michelle Brooks is the marketing coordinator for Pickin’ on the Divide this year.
The premise for the festival, and for Brooks in her promotions, remains the same: bringing community together. Local artisans, restaurants and businesses are featured. Attendees hang out with their family sprawled on lawn chairs, relaxing before the school year begins. The hallmark is a stress-free, wholesome atmosphere — both family-friendly and friendly to all ages.
“I think we’re all feeling the growth of Colorado,” Brooks says. “This brings us back to that small town, community feel. [The festival] hasn’t grown and been commercialized too much. It feels good to connect to your neighbors and enjoy the community.”
To Brooks, another key component to the festival is that it is family-friendly. Brooks has two young children, and wants to make sure art is part of their world.
“Integrating arts in the lives of young families is powerful,” she says. “It really inspires kids when they’re surrounded by arts and creativity. To give them that outlet is pretty special.”
Some proceeds from the event go into a reserve for next year — the rest is given to several charities and nonprofits, including Tri-Lakes Cares, Home Front Cares, One Nation Walking Together and Compassion International.
“People are looking for the right organizations and opportunities where their money is well taken care of,” Brooks says.
Fenter’s favorite part of the festival is the pie tent. From a small town in New Mexico, county fairs (and therefore cooking, and therefore pie) was a staple growing up.
“I think it represents community, you know, sitting with friends and having some pie,” she says. “Right now, the world is hard, we’re bombarded with so much pain. Moments when we can be safe, let our babies play, listen to good music, and eat pie help to give us a structure of sanity. I’m so glad we can offer that to the community.”
For Ellen the entrepreneur, other projects with the church have caught her eye in the past few years. The day-to-day running of the festival is no longer on her plate. But the reason Pickin’ on the Divide began is never far away from her thoughts.
“It’s an opportunity to be together. I remember the old days of county fairs, church picnics — they were an opportunity for a granddaughter to talk to her grandma about something she didn’t want to talk to her mom about. Now, we live so far away from each other, I think that those points of contact are more important than ever.”
Pickin’ on the Divide: Bluegrass Outdoor Music Festival
Saturday, August 17, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
$15 in advance, $20 at the door, free for kids
151 Front St., Monument, CO 80132
11 a.m. – Out of Nowhere
12:15 p.m. – Flying W Wranglers
1:50 p.m. – Tenderfoot Bluegrass
3:25 p.m. – WireWood Station
5 p.m. – Scott Slay and the Rail
Originally written by Jonathan Toman of the Cultural Office and published in the Colorado Springs Independent Abstractions section on August 14, 2019.