KSUT to take reins of FolkWest music festivals


A pair of longstanding musical festivals that call Pagosa Springs home will soon be under new ownership.

On Sept. 30, FolkWest will transfer ownership of the Four Corners Folk Festival and Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass to KSUT Public Radio.

The transfer comes 24 years after husband-and-wife team Dan Appenzeller and Crista Munro founded FolkWest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and will take place following the 24th annual Four Corners Folk Festival Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 atop Reservoir Hill.

The nonprofit produced the first Four Corners Folk Festival in the fall of 1996, with Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass added to the lineup in the summer of 2006.

Munro announced her departure from FolkWest in late May, explaining that she would be leaving her position as executive director in order to become the executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Ore.

At the time, Munro announced that the FolkWest board was in discussions with an entity to take over the festivals.

“We are hopeful that with the deep history and long success of FolkWest’s events, the legacy will live on and thrive under new leadership,” she said in May.

That entity, it was publicly announced last week, is KSUT, a nonprofit radio station that serves five counties in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.

“When I was offered the job with Sisters Folk Festival, it was a bittersweet moment for me, knowing that my chapter at the helm of FolkWest would be ending,” Munro said in a press release. “KSUT always seemed like a natural choice to take over our events. They do an amazing job with everything they produce, and Tami Graham brings a ton of live music production experience to the table. When they said yes to our proposal, I knew that the transition would be a smooth one.”

Graham, KSUT executive director, explained in the press release that the KSUT board of directors and staff are honored to be given the opportunity to continue the legacy of FolkWest festivals.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we can’t thank Crista and Dan enough for entrusting KSUT with the festivals,” Graham said in the press release. “We are committed to maintaining the stellar reputation and high-quality experience for both attendees and artists that FolkWest has cultivated over the past 24 years.”

KSUT announced in the press release it will be conducting a search for a festival director who will coordinate the festivals, as well as other KSUT events.

But Munro and Appenzeller are not walking away from the festivals quite yet.

“We’re actually going to be contracting with KSUT in an advisory position for two years,” Munro told The SUN Tuesday.

With that, Appenzeller will still work to book the artists for the next two years, while Munro will help the transition when it comes to the website, social media, marketing and ticketing.

She noted that a lot of FolkWest’s staff will be staying on for at least a year.

“What I would really like to see is a deepening of the relationship with the community of Pagosa Springs. When Dan and I lived there, we had that,” Munro said, noting that those relationships were hard to maintain from afar after the couple had to move to a lower elevation.

Building those relationships, she added, is one thing KSUT will be really good at, with Graham already having a lot of relationships.

She also hopes that the community can become more involved, giving the community’s memberships more ownership over the events.

Munro further expressed her gratitude to the community for “allowing us to do what we’ve done there for 24 years.”

Decades of music

Despite now calling Oregon home, Munro and Appenzeller called Pagosa home for 20 years, and Pagosa is where the couple co-founded FolkWest and music became such an integral part of their lives.

“It has been such a huge part of our lives for 24 years,” Munro said of music and FolkWest, noting that she and Appenzeller’s son is 22 and doesn’t remember a time that they weren’t putting on two music festivals a year.

Over the years, the couple faced health challenges with Appenzeller and were forced to move, but they never left Pagosa behind.

In 2003, Appenzeller was diagnosed with cancer and underwent aggressive chemo and radiation treatments that saved his life, but left him with health challenges that worsened until he was no longer able to live at a 7,200-foot altitude.

“We relocated to Eugene, Oregon, in 2011 (elevation 200 feet) and have continued to produce the festivals from there ever since, spending a month or more in Pagosa Springs each summer. Although we live in Eugene, the organization remains firmly planted in Colorado,” explained Munro in May.

Recent developments with Appenzeller’s health have prevented him from traveling to Pagosa Springs for the events, beginning in the summer of 2018. He then moved to a part-time role with FolkWest, maintaining responsibility for artist booking and service contracts.