What: Boots and Brews

When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Crash Music, 108 S. Main Ave., and all day Saturday at Riverside Park, 500 S. Lightplant Road

Cost: $12 Friday and $22 Saturday. Children 12 and under are free.

More info: www.bootsandbrews.com

FARMINGTON — The first-ever Boots and Brews country music festival debuts Friday with a kick-off concert at Crash Music.

The concert, which features seven bands and a variety of vendors, continues Saturday at Riverside Park.

Animas River Arts and Entertainment began music festivals eight years ago with the popular Blues and Brews Festival in Aztec. By the second year of Blues and Brews, Katee McClure, the president of ARAE, said the group realized they needed a country music festival because that genre is one of the most popular in the U.S.

Now that vision is becoming a reality.

Boots and Brews features a number of bands, including The Country Music Project, Triple Nickel Band, The Dirty Pesos, The Desert Knights and Country Thunder. Some of the bands stick to traditional, Hank Williams-type country, while others perform a more contemporary style.

"I wanted to get a wide variety," McClure said.

McClure also wanted to find a band that featured a fiddle, which she got with The Desert Knights, a band from Buckeye, Ariz. The band's fiddle player, Doug Deatherage, won the Arizona Country Music Associations National Instrumentalist of the Year in 1993 and 1994.

McClure said she also tried to bring in bands from outside the Four Corners.

"We wanted to get bands that people in this area can't readily see," she said.

After listening to about 30 different country bands, one band really stood out, McClure said.

"When I first heard The Country Music Project, I knew they were special," McClure said.

She chose the Denver-based group to headline the festival.

Michael Rice and Heather Hanson formed The Country Music Project about four years ago. Two years later, Christie Marie joined as lead vocalist.

While the band generally performs cover songs, it recently released a self-titled album of original pieces.

For their original pieces, Marie writes the lyrics, and Rice handles the tunes.

"I have all kinds of tunes I've written that I don't have lyrics to," Rice said.

Usually, it doesn't take long for the duo to pair lyrics with tunes. They finished one of the songs on their recent album, "Remember Me," in 15 minutes.

"Sometimes it just works beautifully," Rice said.

The Country Music Project is also familiar with another of the groups scheduled to perform this weekend, the Triple Nickel Band. Rice described the band as "a little more old school" than The Country Music Project.

"They're a staple up here in Denver," Rice said.

Another difference between the two Denver-based bands is that The Country Music Project features a lead female singer.

"We have, in my opinion, the top female lead vocalist in Denver," Rice said.

Marie laughed and thanked him.

She grew up in a musical family, living in an RV that doubled as a tour bus while her parents performed gospel music.

"I'll probably die singing," Marie said.

Rice also grew up with music. He began playing the violin and saxophone in high school and later switched to acoustic guitar.

"An acoustic guitar is a wonderful instrument because you can carry it around with you," he said.

Rice played various genres, including folk. When he realized the popularity of country music, he ventured into that genre.

Ultimately, both Marie and Rice said they are drawn to country music for the same reason that genre resonates with so many people.

"It's a story about life," Marie said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.