For 10 years, a homegrown music festival has been bringing local and regional bands and scores of loyal fans to a corner of Black Forest - just north of Colorado Springs.

Meadowgrass Music Festival returns to La Foret Conference & Retreat Center this Friday through Sunday with a new spate of bands, a photo retrospective and beer festival - but with the same close-knit feel as in years past. The gates open at 10 a.m. Friday for ticketed campers, with music starting a few hours later at 1:30 p.m. when Lizzy Plotkin takes the stage.

Music starts at 11 a.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Click here for the full schedule.

"We started as a collaboration between a lot of organizations in town - specifically La Foret - wanting to get people out. Rocky Mountain Highway Music Collaborative wanted to be able to provide a way for local musicians to get seen," said Michele Mukatis, festival director. "We try to include local, regional and international bands. It helps to cross-pollinate. We have a good mix of genres."

Though the festival was named for its bluegrass roots, it has evolved into a mix of genres. The Meadowgrass name stuck. After all, the concert is in a meadow.

"We're still 99 percent volunteer run. We have 150 to 200 volunteers throughout the weekend, plus our volunteer board members. It's a labor of love for every part," Mukatis said.

This year, 23 bands will grace the festival stage: Ron Pope, Nicki Bluhm, The Steel Wheels, The New Orleans Suspects, Blue Water Highway Band, Banditos, Steve Poltz, Seth Glier, Bernt Cowles, Musketeer Gripweed, FY5, Grass It Up, A Bear's Choice, Tallgrass, Wild Rivers, Edith, Clem Hammond & The B-3s, Sandy Wells, Lizzy Plotkin, Tejon Street Corner Thieves, Mike Maddux & the Headliners, and Edie Carey, Justin Roth and Sara Sample in the round.

"The best part is, you come and you never know what you're going to get," Mukatis said. "And I've had so many people say, 'I didn't know any of the bands, but I was so impressed with the quality of music.' If there's a band you're not crazy about, just go wander the La Foret grounds. There are workshops, yoga, a labyrinth and historic buildings to see."

Two bands will perform in the children's play area, The Cosmic Flying Goats and Steve Weeks Music, and the Mobile Music Project will use bicycles to power music. Concrete Couch, Millibo Art Theatre, the Cheyenne Mountain ZOOmobile and the Girl Scouts will provide activities.

Camping is a popular option, but a lot of festivalgoers commute for one or all days. But the only way to see the late-night shows (from 10 p.m. to about midnight) is to camp.

Saturday typically is the biggest day, crowdwise, attracting about 1,500 music-lovers. Mukatis said that number could double this year.

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