Dan Appenzeller’s dream

By Terri Lynn Oldham House

What if?

The year was 1996 when Dan Appenzeller had his “what if?” moment that became the Four Corners Folk Festival.

Before COVID-19, thousands of people of all ages converged from all around the country over Labor Day weekend for live performances, workshops, campfire jams and children’s programs that are the backbone of the popular, music-filled weekend that was once one man’s “what if?” moment.

Twenty-five years ago on Labor Day weekend, Appenzeller’s vision became reality when the grassy meadow on Reservoir Hill became known as the “festival meadow.” 

Sally Hameister was the director of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, and in the Sept. 5, 1996, “Chamber News” column, she wrote, “Congratulations Four Corners Folk Festival — To all those who shed blood, sweat and tears, went without sleep and sustenance for extended periods of time, lost touch with your families, friends and the real world, and lived and breathed only for the Four Corners Folk Festival, congratulations on a superb job. As a ‘ticket lady,’ I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people who raved about their Festival experience, and I have no doubt that they will spread the word and return time and time again.”

Hameister gave props to the event director, Appenzeller: “Job well done. And, Dan Appenzeller — some people live out their lives without a dream, let alone a dream realized. 

“Congratulations on making your dream come true.”

Sitting down with SUN staff before the festival a few years ago, Appenzeller explained that, while the festival may have been his notion, it would have never continued if not for his wife, Crista Munro. 

“She’s the reason why the festival actually exists. She was born with wisdom that I have never, ever found in anyone else,” he said. 

At the time, Munro was the festival’s executive director. When you added her wisdom and talent to Appenzeller’s dream, you came up with world-class, legendary music festivals as we have grown accustomed to here in Pagosa Country. 

Thankfully, the couple didn’t stop dreaming after that first festival. Nowadays, there are two such festivals held annually on Reservoir Hill. Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is celebrated each June and the Four Corners Folk Festival each Labor Day weekend. 

Munro and Appenzeller moved away from Pagosa Springs nine years ago due to health issues. Yet, they continued pouring their heart and soul into our community. The two festivals have become an impactful economic driver for our community over the years.

Munro and Appenzeller returned twice a year to the festival meadow — the same meadow where they exchanged their wedding vows just one month after they first made the 140-acre ponderosa pine forest on Reservoir Hill come alive with the sound of music.

A few years ago, Munro wrote, “Since 1996, we’ve amassed a FolkWest family made up of volunteers, staff, musicians and, of course, our amazing audience. We’ve watched as a generation of kids has grown up and started families of their own. We’ve shared in the sorrow of the passing of countless friends and loved ones. Through it all, the one thing that’s remained constant is the music and its power to unite, heal and create joy.”

Unfortunately, it’s been a few years since Appenzeller’s health allowed him to come home to this altitude and join in the culmination of his dream with us, but his heart was with us all.

Munro’s and Appenzeller’s journey changed course when they began a new chapter of their life in Sisters, Ore., where Munro accepted a position as executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival.

We are forever grateful for that “what if?” moment, and for Appenzeller and Munro keeping the dream alive in Pagosa Springs. 

On Friday morning, Appenzeller’s son and greatest creation, Elias, shared that his father had “passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning. He’s finally at peace, no more suffering.”

We are thankful for the hours we spent visiting in our office and solving the problems of this world with Appenzeller. He definitely put a song in so many of our hearts. His legacy and dream will live on forever. 

This story was posted on August 27, 2020.