When Hannah Holbrook heard that no one really lives in Buford (even though the population is technically one), she was a little surprised.
She’s not the first, though.
As a professional musician booked to play a gig, you expect the performance to be held in a fairly populated area, right?
That’s not the case with WindFest.
Last year, regional and even nationally known musicians have made the trek to the tiny (literally and metaphorically) town that lies between Cheyenne and Laramie to play a show for music lovers young and old.
This year will see the return of the afternoon festival, featuring three artists from the Front Range, including Holbrook’s band, which consists of her and her three sisters, SHEL (which is an acronym for the sisters’ names: Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza, respectively).
WindFest will be held today on Monument Road in Buford. In addition to SHEL, the other two performs will be legendary Centennial group J Shogren Shanghai’d, and local singer-songwriter Todd Dereemer and his backing group.
“We’re pleased to have the Todd Dereemer Band from Cheyenne performing this year,” event coordinator Paul Montoya said in a news release. “Todd comes from a long line of Wyoming ranchers and musicians, and combines his life experiences and Western heritage into his music. His daughter, Grace, will join the band for this event.”
The Vedauwoo Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary will sell food as part of a fundraiser for the organization. Beer, soda and pie will also be available for sale.
Besides the music, the Rocky Mountain Kite Association and Show Stopper Kites from Gibbon, Nebraska, will fly kites and give demonstrations of several styles of kites.
But back to SHEL, the headliner of the event.
Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the four sisters grew up in a bohemian household where their parents fully encouraged the girls to chase their dreams and promoted artistic expression throughout.
“From day one, they told me and my sisters that we would be the best of friends,” Holbrook said. “As we got older, especially when we were teenagers, we realized that we truly enjoyed hanging out together, which ultimately made it easier when we would go on tour.”
The foursome took their respective roles in the band: Sarah Holbrook on guitar, violin and vocals; Hannah Holbrook on keys, piano and vocals; Eva Holbrook on mandolin, guitar and emerging as the lead vocalist; and Liza Holbrook rounding out the group on drums and performing as a beatboxer and backup vocalist.
They started playing smaller shows in the Fort Collins area, such as weddings and more intimate events. While they were mainly doing covers of popular songs, they were working on their original music, too.
“I remember the first time we wrote an instrumental on our own,” Hannah Holbrook said. “Our mom came home and heard us playing it and began to cry. For me, that was a defining moment. I realized we could write something that could bring a person to tears. That’s really powerful.”
It’s hard to fully define the band’s sound, since they have grown up listening to such a wide variety of artists, ranging from Chopin to The Beatles to Sting and Led Zeppelin.
They’ve been playing together for about 16 years, but they’re not slowing down anytime soon. They have big plans for this year, from recording some projects in Nashville with the Christian rock group Jars of Clay to preparing to release a couple of extended plays and maybe their third full-length record.
For Hannah Holbrook, the last few years of SHEL’s musical journey has been a whirlwind, but that hasn’t made it any less exhilarating.
“Recording with Jars of Clay was such a big deal for us,” she said. “We met them in Nashville, and they’ve kind of become like our big brothers at this point. We just want people who see or listen to us to be inspired. When I go to a good concert, I want to go home and practice. That’s what I hope people can take away from SHEL.”