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Copper Country is full of surprises

Copper Country is a place, not a genre. Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 people attend each year, for a weekend full of fun and genre-spanning music.

A Copper Country festival favorite, The Long Players return for a third year on Labor Day weekend to help celebrate the last big hurrah of Copper’s summer season.

The Nashville-based band takes classic albums and performs them live in their original sequence with guest artists they recruit.

In past years they’ve done the Beatles album, “Rubber Soul,” and The Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Last year they invited Bobby Keys, who plays saxophone with The Rolling Stones, to play the albums “Let It Bleed” and “Sticky Fingers.” This year they’re bringing Nashville vocalists Rick Brantley and Heath Haynes.

On Sunday at 1 p.m., the Long Players will play The Traveling Wilburys first album (the 1988 record from George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne). But Saturday’s album is a surprise.

“This year we sent a list in to the homeowners association to put a little more democracy into the choosing,” said The Long Players’ Bill Lloyd.

The list included Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True,” Neil Young’s “Harvest” and Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever.”

The surprise concert takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, but the winning album will be announced tonight.

“We each do homework on our own once the album is picked and then we have two rehearsals, the first with the band only and the other where we bring in singers and sidemen,” Lloyd said. “If there’s a key to it, it’s bringing a love for the original record you’re celebrating. You can’t fake that. If the band and the singers love the record we’re doing, the audience can tell and they join in the experience and it’s a great time.”

In the last seven years, The Long Players have done more than 50 albums, and the band was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and other national media.

In addition to The Long Players, Copper Country will feature headliners Keb’ Mo,’ Rosanne Cash and The Mavericks, among other artists.

If you’re not a country music lover, never fear. That’s not what Copper Country is about.

“We often say, ‘Copper Country is a place, not a genre,'” Erin Woods of the resort association said. “It is a place where families, homeowners, music and art fans all come together to enjoy the mountains and all the activities the festival offers. Our music lineups range from blues to Americana to folk to bluegrass to rock to country, and with that kind of diversity, it is always a well-loved show.”

The weekend begins with a concert tonight by Katey Laurel, 2011 winner of the Colorado Texaco Country Showdown, as part of the Fridays at Copper series. Afterward there is a showing of “The Muppets” at Burning Stones outdoor theater. All day today, guests can enjoy free activities in the village after spending $30 at a Copper establishment.

Copper Country’s art festival starts Saturday, with artists showing in the village and returning sculptor, Kim Shaklee, at Kokopelli’s Trail. Colorado artists Laurie Maves and Eric Matelski will be painting live during the event, with the work auctioned to raise funds for the Copper Environmental Foundation.

“Because it is homeowners’ weekend, there is a real sense of community when all of the homeowners and their families and guests are spending the weekend enjoying the place in which they’ve invested,” Woods said. Approximately 5,000-6,000 people attend the event each year.

Adjacent to the main stage, Copper’s Kids’ Corral has a mechanical bull, petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, Western-themed crafts and WOW Bubbles, which kids can climb inside and maneuver around a small pool. Lodging packages start at $99/night; call (888) 740-9094 for reservations.

“It is a wonderful time to get together and enjoy being bathed in the sun in a beautiful environment, drink a cold beer, relish in the amazing music, view talented local and regional artists’ works and have an overall awesome time,” homeowner Grace Covington said. “Our community at Copper Mountain is an incredible one. Copper Mountain is the absolute best-kept secret in Colorado, and we are proud to be a member of the community.”