By Therese Howe

            About 40 local performers who play at the county’s wineries and breweries are giving up their regular gigs on Sunday to participate in the second annual LoCo Musicians Festival at 868 Estate Vineyards. 

            Last year’s event drew 1,500 people and this year they’re expecting 2,000 to attend the festival, according to winery co-owner Nancy Deliso.

“We’ve got great music, food, beer, wine slushies,” she said. “Come and stay for the day -bring a blanket or a tent, set up lawn chairs, and just enjoy music all day long.” 

            For the musicians, it’s a rare opportunity to get together for a seven-hour jam session that also doubles as fundraiser to help up-and-coming musicians.

            Festival producer Todd Brooks came up with the idea for the event after a fortuitous late-night encounter. 

            “I had a chance meeting with a fellow musician one night at a 7-Eleven picking up a chili dog and we were saying how we never really get to hang out or talk because we’re always out playing music. 

I thought, let’s have a day where nobody books a gig, we can all come together, we can play a little bit of music if we want, and we can just hang out and talk shop all day.” 

            Brooks is a Park View High School graduate whose Sterling-based band opened for heavy metal headliners in the early 1990s. He got his start on the winery circuit back in the early 2000s, when he happened to have his guitar at Doukenie Winery and was asked to play. One gig led to another, and today he plays at public and private events around the county with his band, Todd Brooks and Pour Decisions.  

            Among the venues where they play is 868 Estate, which he said has been instrumental in putting together and promoting the LoCo Musicians Festival events. Deliso, in turn, praised Brooks’ efforts in supporting fellow musicians. “To give up a gig day to come out and play for free shows how much respect they have for him and what this music festival is doing.” 

            Together, Brooks and 868 Estate raised more than $6,000 during last year’s festival. The proceeds were used to buy musical equipment for up-and-and coming musicians Emma Rowley, who received a full turnkey PA system, and Stephanie Mendez, who now has a wireless microphone to use at her performances.  

            “I help a lot of young kids in the area who are trying to break into the musician scene and just don’t have the experience to know what to do, what to get or how to do the shows. So I started mentoring them and I found there was really a big need for equipment because they couldn’t go out and play these shows without the equipment. … When you’re a young person and you have only one guitar, and it gets run over by accident or whatever, it can be devastating because it’s $400 to $500 to buy a new guitar that’s even halfway decent.”

            Building on the success of that first fundraiser, Brooks organized another LoCo Musicians Festival event in May at 868 Estate. The LoCo Young Guns festival showcased four emerging young artists, some of them still in high school: Luke Andrews, Caleb Gossage, Kirsten Woods and Cole Zimmerman of Everything in Between, and Wayne Snow.     

            This fall, the festival’s signature event will again feature seasoned musicians familiar to the winery and brewery crowds, including Emma Rowley, Jason Masi, Gary Smallwood, Chris Timbers Band, Andrew O’Day and Nathaniel Davis, among others. There is one exception—12-year-old Sela Campbell, whom Brooks has dubbed the LoCo Rising Star Showcase performer at the event.  “She’s pretty fantastic. She played at our show two weekends ago [in early August] at 868 Estate and she got better applause than we got.” 

            The event is free to attend, although a $10 donation per adult is requested. For more information, go to locomusiciansfestival.com.

theresehowe@loudounnow.com