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Come home to a place you’ve never been before

Provided to the Tribune

Provided to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Steve Kern, a.k.a. "Little John," Joel Hannel and Bill Lanaham, from left, will be among the entertainers at the Dancing with the Mountains musical festival.

Combine a love of music, a love of Lake Tahoe and a commitment to the preservation of our environment in one person, and if that person is Joel Hannel, manager of Tahoe Valley Campground, you get a musical celebration called “Dancing with the Mountains.”

On Sept. 9, 10 and 11 the second annual “Dancing with the Mountains” music festival celebrating the music, life and commitment of John Denver to the preservation of the environment will take place at Tahoe Valley Campground, 1175 Melba Drive in South Lake Tahoe. C Street off Highway 50 leads directly into the gates of Tahoe Valley Campground.

The festival is scheduled from noon to 10 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The cost to attend is $4 per day or $6 for all three days.

Joel Hannel has lived in South Lake Tahoe and managed Tahoe Valley Campground for 51Ú2 years.

“I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place and I know many locals feel the same,” Hannel said. “But, I’d like to inspire more people to get involved in helping preserve the natural beauty of the environment that draws us all here. I’d also like to have some fun while doing it. I hope Dancing with the Mountains will help promote an awareness of our community’s need to care for Tahoe. I want this magnificent place to be here for us to enjoy, certainly for my lifetime, but it is our responsibility to see that it is here for future generations as well.”

As a young boy raised on a farm in Iowa, Hannel could identify with the “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” persona of John Denver’s music. His family often vacationed in Colorado and eventually relocated to the Rocky Mountains. There Hannel first experienced the joys of what he calls being on vacation while being on the job. He spent his summers as a whitewater river guide and helping with the family business operating a campground near Salida, Colo. It was on that campground that he met two guitar playing hippies, “Heidi” and “Bear.” They soon became good friends and under the stars in the heart of the Rocky Mountains circled around a campfire, Hannel learned to play the guitar.

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Years later he auditioned for a John Denver tribute show called “The Never Ending Song,” produced by Earthwalker Entertainment. A few weeks later he was the star of the show and as a result of good reviews he began playing professionally through the Northwest. Eventually, the late hours and endless traveling caught up with him and he decided to go back to a day job and ended up managing Tahoe Valley Campground.

A littler over a year ago he was invited to play a concert in Monterey. There he met Bill Templin, an active member of the California chapter of “Windstar.” The “Windstar Foundations” was founded in 1976 by John Denver and Tom Crum as a nonprofit environmental education organization.

“Windstar” promotes a holistic approach when addressing environmental concerns. Essentially, “Windstar” feels that we are all part of the environment – sort of a “Pogo’s” revelation that “we have met the enemy and he is us,” which is reached by education.

Templin and Hannel got together following the Monterey concert and soon began planning a small concert at Tahoe Valley Campground.

“I agreed it was a good idea, but I didn’t want to be the only musician, so I suggested we turn it into more than a concert. I envisioned more of an environmental festival, with three days of food, music, fun, and love for the environment,” Hannel said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope that with local support for a local cause we can someday see this grow into a major Tahoe event.”

Musicians from Oregon, California and Nevada will participate and perform in this year’s program, which promises to be as much fun and as productive as last years. Once again, John Denver’s music will be emphasized during the course of the festival, but other appropriate music will be played over the course of the three days. In addition to concerts there will be Campfire Sing-a-long/jam sessions, “open mike” performances, a film featuring John Denver, and arts and crafts for sale.

Music may feed the soul, but for those who prefer more substantial fare there will be an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for $3 per person. Lunch and dinner will also be available on Saturday.

The “Dancing with the Mountains” festival is the happy result of a man’s love of music and the environment and the belief that a good time can be the source of a greater good – the preservation of the world we live in.

For more information call (530) 541-2222.