12/2015: Tennessee

It was that time of the year again…November.  The days were getting shorter and my wedding calendar was opening up.  I found an open weekend, booked a flight and I was off. Off to the Volunteer State for a wedding conference and to explore the music meccas of Nashville and Memphis.

803Tour stop #1…WME’s Wedding Expo.  Over the years, I’ve found it almost imperative to schedule at least two wedding and / or DJ conferences per year to keep up to date on the latest.  This year has been especially busy with not only weddings but a hectic hiking schedule during the mid-weeks (see October’s blog), so it’s been a challenge to get away for a week.  I chose the WME conference because it was small – just 100 attendees – and in an interesting location for other explorations.  Two days of great presentations and speakers from around the country focused on what was new in weddings. I’ll be covering more on this in next month’s blog – my annual wrap up that features “What’s Hot And What’s Not”.

800Tour Stop #2…Nashville Music City.  I spent an extra day just exploring the “Music City” portion of the city.  When most people think of Nashville, they think country music.  Though it is country music’s capital, it is also a hotbed of songwriters, recording studios, and publishers for all genres of music.  Many non-country artists live in Nashville because of its proximity to all things music.  I found it is sort of like a “L.A. East”.  I also visited “Neon Nashville” which is a 4-block stretch of downtown loaded with bars and nightclubs with live bands that jam from noon to well past midnight.  The street and all the adjoining bars were all packed even though it was a Monday night. Though the music was mostly country at most venues, I also heard plenty of rock as well as one pretty good ’80s cover band that was cranking out the likes of Poison, Def Leppard, and Journey.

801No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall Of Fame. A country music fan can easily spend an entire day here, and possibly a weekend. This massive museum traces the history of the genre from its humble beginnings a century ago through to today’s million-selling artists like Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and The Voice’s Blake Shelton.  It’s also loaded with artifacts, instruments, and clothing worn by it’s biggest stars. The huge “Rotunda Room” has the plaques of every artist enshrined in the Hall Of Fame. I was happy to see one of my personal favorites, Ronnie Milsap, was just voted in this past year.  Nearby is the holy grail of country music venues, Ryman Auditorium.  It’s been called the “Mother Church Of Country Music”, and has featured the Grand Ole Opry show for decades. The goal of every burgeoning country artist is to play on this historic stage.  It was also birthplace of bluegrass music in December 1945.  That’s when banjo player Lester Flatts & guitarist Earl Scruggs added mandolin player Bill Monroe to their band and started a new sub-genre of music that continues today.  Today’s “bluegrass / newgrass” artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and the Avett Brothers can trace their roots back this very building.

809Tour stop #3…Memphis.  When most people think of Memphis, they think of Elvis.  Since I visited Graceland years ago, I skipped it this time in favor of visiting it’s more historic roots – as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll and of course, the blues. I’ve never been a huge fan of the blues and I hardly ever get requests for it at weddings (for obvious reasons), but I thought it would be fun to check out where it all started.  Beale Street is a blast – a two block area of blues clubs and restaurants just a few blocks from the Mississippi. This is where blues legends like B.B. King got their start.  A couple of miles away is Sun Studios, the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. Sam Phillips started this humble recording studio in the early ’50s to record the area’s up and coming talent. Little did he know that he would discover and record the first hits by rock’s early pioneers. Elvis’ first record, “That’s All Right”, was cut here as were the early hits of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison.

 

11/2014: Videography

For this month’s blog, I’ve asked videographer Tom Pehrson with Peak Impact Productions to write about videography.  

I have known Ron Michaels for many years now and have worked several events with him. He is an incredible DJ/Emcee who values quality and professionalism in his business. I am very honored that he has asked me to be a guest blogger. It’s just another way he works to provide his clients with an exceptional experience and I hope you find this information beneficial as you plan your wedding.

– Tom Pehrson, Peak Impact Productions, LLC

Creating a Wedding Video that Tells the Full Story

A wedding video is a fantastic way to tell the story of one of the most important events of your life!

Colorado Wedding Video 1When most people think about a wedding, they think about the ceremony. However, there are many other moments that complete your wedding experience. Each part is like a chapter in a book, and each chapter builds on the previous one to tell the complete story of your big day! A quality, professional wedding filmmaker can take all the pieces and create a video that showcases your wedding not just as a series of events, but in the context for who you are and what you value.

In addition to the ceremony, other moments worth remembering for a lifetime include:

Rehearsal Dinner: This informal celebration offers candid toasts, gift exchanges and moments between friends and family that are funny and heartfelt. These are also some of the last few moments before a couple says “I do.” The rehearsal and dinner creates an opportunity to capture their genuine, growing excitement before the big day.

Pre-ceremony Preparation: Footage of hair and makeup time for the bride and her bridal party offer beautiful, rare, tender moments with her closest family and friends. It is a time of excitement and anticipation when genuine emotional moments happen. Reactions from the ladies as the bride puts on her wedding dress for the ceremony are a priceless, one-time experience that’s great to have on a wedding video. The same is true for the guys. When you put both bride and groom prep together, it helps set the stage for the main events.

Cocktail Hour: Cocktail hour is an ideal time to capture footage of the guests. You invited them to your wedding, so this is the most candid time to capture them relaxing, chatting and connecting before your big entrance. They are excited and happy to be there, which makes for lively, engaging material to add to the video.

Photo Session: Filming a photo session, especially a unique one, can give you the “behind the scenes” feel, as well as the goofy, candid exchanges and silly poses that are unique to you and your family/friends.

Toasts: These are some of the most emotional moments of a wedding. Honored guests share special stories about the couple and what they mean to their family and friends. It will be very difficult to remember what was said without a professional video.

Open Dancing: People come to a wedding to celebrate with you! During open dancing, guests usually forget about the camera and this is a great time to capture all the people who were there on your big day!

A wedding is a time when you take a new step on life’s journey and you celebrate with the people you love the most. It is an experience worth remembering with more than a photograph.

Thanks again Tom! Feel free to check out Tom’s website (link above) to see some of his work. I’m hoping to have more of my wedding industry friends provide “guest blogs” in the future. Their experiences working with couples on one of the biggest days of their lives, and the insight they provide is invaluable. Check in next month when I’ll be writing about my recent trip to the music meccas of Memphis and Nashville!  RM

10/2014: 14ers

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July 1st…Enjoying the summit of Redcloud Peak in the San Juans with a furry friend.

This past summer, I embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign for the Larimer Humane Society. The idea for “14ers For Furry Friends” was to raise $1,014 for climbing fourteen of Colorado’s 14ers (14,000-foot peaks) in 14 weeks during the summer of 2014…say THAT three times fast! I found out fairly quickly that raising the money was the easy part.

There were some minor logistical concerns involved with this undertaking, such as the fact that the high altitude hiking season directly overlaps the height of my summer wedding season.  And also, most of these mountains are a solid 3 to 5 hour drive from my home base of Fort Collins.  I devised a plan to minimize travel time while not affecting any of the weddings and wedding clients that hired me.  I grouped the fourteen peaks into geographical regions and hiked up to three per trip over a couple of days at a time every two to three weeks, usually leaving early on a Monday and getting home on Wednesday evening.

607 ElbertOther than putting an extra 2,000 miles on my brand new Subaru XV Crosstrek and breaking in the shocks and struts on some of the roughest roads in the state, the plan worked perfectly. July’s hikes generally featured great weather, little wind, and dry trails.  During August, the seasonal monsoon rains made their annual appearance and there was a marked increase in cloudiness and storms.  September featured changeable conditions, changing fall colors, cooler temperatures, and a surprise snowstorm on the final day of hiking on Gray’s Peak (see bottom photo).

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Ultrarunner Doug Nash joined me for some high altitude fun on a few peaks this summer.

As luck would have it, I rarely hiked solo. I invited anyone to join in on any of the hikes.  I was joined on a few hikes by ultramarathoner Doug Nash who was an invaluable resource of information.  Doug and his wife run the Twin Lakes Inn south of Leadville, which I stayed overnight at a few times this summer (cozy rooms, gourmet restaurant).  I also made sure a few of the hikes were relatively easy, so first-timers could also join me. Aside from raising money for one of my favorite charities, the goal of the project was to introduce people to the adventure of backcountry hiking in Colorado, and more specifically, hiking 14ers, which I’ve been doing for almost 20 years now. Over the course of the summer, I was fortunate enough to be joined by eight people who have never hiked a 14er before.

Jeff, David, and Lindsey enjoying their first 14er experience on Mount Evans.

Jeff, David, and Lindsey enjoying their first 14er experience on Mount Evans.

They included a couple who’s wedding I’ll be DJing next summer (Jeff & Lindsey), a DJ friend that flew out all the way from New Jersey to hike the state’s highest peak with me (Mt. Elbert – above), and a super-fit 73 year old named Jim who hadn’t hiked in a few years but was in exceptional shape. Jim got a bit more than he bargained for as he was one of the folks that joined me on that snowy day on Gray’s a couple of weeks ago.  Though it was a relatively easy hike under dry conditions, Mother Nature decided to add some drama on the final day of September and battered us with winds and sideways snow. Jim never stopped smiling though out the hike and had a great positive attitude all day. I’m sure he’ll have some awesome stories to tell his grandchildren in the coming weeks.

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Braving the elements on Gray’s Peak for the final hike of 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for next summer’s adventure fundraiser to celebrate Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th anniversary!

9/2014: One Year Later

One year ago this month, Colorado’s Front Range was hit with one of the most severe floods in the state’s history.  Instead of the typically localized flash flooding that we occasionally get during the summer, this particular event was widespread – covering more than a dozen counties – and cut off many mountain communities due to heavily damaged highways.

zblogFrom a climatological perspective, you have to go back to at least 1935 to find an event as large as this one.  Though deadlier, the infamous Big Thompson Flood of 1976 was a very localized event and covered less than 10% of the area of last year’s deluge. In Larimer County, all major mountain canyon highways sustained some sort of damage.  Northern Colorado’s premier wedding destination, Estes Park, was cut off from surrounding areas from the east for several days (for more on this, see my blog from October 2013 – “Keep Calm Marry On”). During the weeks following the flood, roads were repaired amazingly quickly and things began to get back to normal.  By this past spring and certainly the summer, it was business as usual in town as tourists flocked to Estes’ many summer festivals. Ironically, during the flooding, few wedding venues in Estes Park sustained damage as most are well above the flood plain.

Wedding Garden IThis was not the case at the Sylvan Dale Ranch downstream in Loveland near the mouth of Big Thompson Canyon.  This historic ranch, which hosted dozens of weddings on a yearly basis for decades, sustained major damage.  The force of the water scoured the entire valley and wiped out two of the three wedding sites including the Heart Pond and Daddy J Pavilion. Amazingly, the popular Heritage Lodge was just 3 feet above the height of the flood water and escaped all damage.  Thanks to donations and the help of volunteers, the ranch started hosting weddings again by mid-summer.  They built a brand new wedding site (see photos) out of the flood plain just above the main lodge.  Thanks to fellow DJ Neil Carlberg from Too Much Fun DJ who took these photos at a recent wedding he was hired for.

Wedding Garden IIIn talking with other local wedding professionals over the last few months, most have said that the number of weddings they have been hired for this year in Estes Park was down a bit.  I surmise this is probably because when the flood hit in September, many couples were in the early planning stages of their weddings and thought that it would be springtime before roads would be open to Estes, limiting possible access to the town (amazingly, all roads were all open by November). Weddings in non-mountain areas this year was up by around 25%. In looking at my calendar, and early reports from other wedding vendors, Estes will probably have a near-record amount of weddings in 2015.

8/2014: Miniaturize

Small is the new big.

Since starting Ron Michaels Weddings back in the early ’90s, I’ve noticed huge changes in all aspects of weddings, DJing, and music technology.  The past 20 years have revolutionized the mobile DJ industry in many good ways and some not so good.

thW5ACPLI2On the downside is the fact digital technology has given some brides and grooms the idea that they can DJ their reception themselves by setting up an iPod loaded with their favorite tunes to save a little bit of money.  It’s usually not until wedding day that they realize that an iPod can not “read” the crowd like a full-time wedding DJ can, nor can it inform, guide, and direct guests through all stages of a wedding reception like that same Master Of Ceremonies is able to. Most post-reception reviews I’ve heard from guests that have attended “iPod weddings” have been less than favorable.  Fortunately, the iPod wedding trend is now on the decline as most couples are realizing the value of quality DJ entertainment.

miniaturize cdTechnology over the last decade has also made it much easier for anyone to become a DJ.  Anyone can go down to their local Guitar Center, buy a bunch of gear, illegally download a friend’s mp3 library in a couple of hours, and be “DJ-ready” in no time. Back in the day, some DJs spent years acquiring a huge CD library like the one pictured at left. Fortunately in 2014, we don’t need to have hundreds of CDs unsightly strewn across a banquet table like back in ’90s.  The miniaturization of the DJ industry has made it possible to have all this music on a hard drive the size of a pack of cigarettes.  No other wedding related sector has changed as much as ours over the last two decades.

Miniaturize cocktail hourLast year I invested in the Bose speaker system. It’s a miniaturized version of the typical DJ system. Large bass bins and speaker stands are replaced by smaller components designed for aesthetics as well as clearer sound quality.  These smaller components not only look better, but because of their smaller size, allow for a larger dance floor area.  I especially love my new mini cocktail hour speaker system (pictured at left at a recent wedding at the Tapestry House).  It’s virtually invisible – you have to look closely – and has an incredibly small footprint.

miniaturize carAnother interesting byproduct of technology’s miniaturization is the fact that my vehicles have gotten smaller over the years.  Back in the ’90s, I drove a Toyota minivan to haul my all my gear.  After switching to an all-wedding format a decade ago, I sold my karaoke system and almost all of my lighting gear, and bought a smaller SUV.  Now with my smaller Bose system, my new even-smaller Subaru Crosstrek can fit everything with room to spare.  At this rate, I’ll be driving a SmartCar in a few years.

 

7/2014: Mentors

Webster Dictionary defines the word mentor as “a wise and trusted teacher”.  I’ve also heard the word defined as someone who inspires, motivates, and leads.  I’ve had many mentors over the years and last month, two of them passed away.

thH88HRXZ2Casey Kasem was the host of the syndicated radio show “American Top 40″ for almost two decades.  His show, broadcast to hundreds of radio stations across the country and around the world, would count down the 40 hottest songs on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart every week.  Billboard was, and still is, the most authoritative magazine in the music business.  It’s quite possible that Casey may have single-handedly gotten me interested in popular music which eventually lead me to becoming a DJ.  Within a year of starting to listen to his weekly program, I went from probably not knowing who Elton John or the Rolling Stones were, to knowing practically every song on the radio, it’s current chart position, and little anecdotes about each tune and artist.

I was addicted.  I can still remember my mom yelling across the house on Sunday mornings, “Ronnie, go play outside, it’s beautiful out!”  My response was usually, “Casey’s not to #1 yet!”. I remember a family trip to Disney World one year in December.  Unfortunately it coincided with Casey’s annual all-day Top 100 countdown of the biggest hits of the year.  Guess what I was doing while the family was enjoying Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride?  Yep, I was back at the hotel listening to the countdown and logging every song in my notebook.  They all thought I was nuts!   Still to this day, I track the weekly hits on the charts.  It’s a lot easier now.  Instead of sitting around a radio for hours, I just turn on my computer and go to billboard.com.

th[7]It’s quite possible that if you’re not a baseball fan, or don’t live in San Diego, you may not know about Tony Gwynn.  Tony was to San Diego what John Elway is to Denver…a hometown sports icon. I call him “the greatest baseball player most people have never heard of”.  Tony’s PR problem came from the fact that he played for a small market club (the San Diego Padres) that rarely made the playoffs and steered clear of the controversy that other high profile players are known for.  Tony could have made tens of millions of dollars more over the course of his career by playing in L.A., New York, or other high-profile big budget teams.  His home was in San Diego and he refused to leave and uproot his family. Rumor has it, he drove his agent crazy because he’d take less than he was worth just to stay in small-market San Diego.

What Tony did do was know how to hit.  In fact, he did it better than anybody during the 80s and 90s.  I remember going to Padres games when I lived in San Diego just to see Gwynn play. I think he got a hit every game I saw him, he was just that consistent. He amassed an insane .338 lifetime batting average, over 3,100 career hits, eight batting titles, flirted with .400 in 1994, and was hardly ever injured.

20140710_181102Tony was a student of the game.  He’d spend hours watching videos of each of his at-bats to see how he could perfect his swing.  Right up until he retired in 2001, he was an amazing hitter, finishing with 19 straight years with a .300 or better batting average.  Tony left the game on top, still sharp, though knowing his best years were behind him. I remember seeing him play in his last game in Colorado that year against the Rockies.  The Rockies fans graciously gave Gwynn a standing ovation for his final at-bat knowing they were witnessing a future Hall Of Famer. Most importantly, Gwynn was a people person.  He’d always sign an autograph for a fan.  He treated stadium janitors and batboys with the same respect as the team owners. The media loved him, as he always gave a great interview and was very generous with his time even after a rough Padres loss – which over the years, like my Rockies – happens more than victories.

6/2014: The ‘Boat

thALN2BPIOThe year was 1825.  A group of three French trappers were hunting in what is now known as the Yampa River Valley in western Colorado.  They heard what sounded like the chugging sound of a steamboat engine.  Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a natural mineral hot springs. It would be named Steamboat Spring.

By the late 1800s families were homesteading in the area, and the turn of the century saw a railroad being built and several businesses were established.  Carl Howelsen built a ski jumping facility here in 1915 that would become one of the first ski areas in the country.  The rest is history.  Over the next 100 years, the area has turned into one of Colorado’s premier resort locations with world class skiing in the winter and countless outdoor recreational activities in the summer.

412It’s always a pleasure to travel to the ‘Boat (as the locals call it).  This month I had a wedding here, so I decided to spend the entire weekend.  I drove up on Friday afternoon to attend the ceremony rehearsal (photo left), Saturday was the wedding, and I stayed an extra day to enjoy some outdoor activities.  Chassity & Jeff really went out of their way to create an incredible weekend for their guests, almost all of which spent the entire weekend in town as well.

411 Chassity & JeffThey picked Bella Vista as their venue, a beautiful hilltop location overlooking Lake Catamount just east of town on the main road up Rabbit Ears Pass.  A tent was set up for the reception’s 100+ guests on Saturday.  These guests loved to party…and so did the bride and groom.  What began as a late afternoon ceremony ended 7 hours later at midnight with a full dance floor and a great sparkler exit of the bride and groom.  Wisely, Chassity & Jeff provided shuttle buses for their guests to get back into town to the Sheraton as they had a hosted bar and frankly, many guests had a few too many drinks to be driving back to town on a winding mountain road.  Definitely a good move!  Overall it was one of my favorite weddings of the year.

As a side note, a wedding that I was hired for last summer was recently featured in the latest edition of Rocky Mountain Bride Magazine.  Christina & Jason’s wedding took place at the Black Canyon Inn.  This was another really fun couple.  Here’s the featured link: