To celebrate its 7th anniversary, the Castle Rock Bar & Grill Event Center invited the Clay Mac Band to play three days of shows starting Friday, but there's one catch - the performances all free.
Mac, a country-western veteran and fiddler extraordinaire, has 50 years of music experience and a large fan base in the Southwest, especially in Texas and New Mexico. He has opened for the likes of George Strait and The Charlie Daniels Band, and he also happens to be a good friend of Castle Rock owner Peter Cimino.
"The synergy (Mac) brings to Castle Rock is electrifying," Cimino said. "The group is awesome."
Dave Thompson and Mike Smith, long-time friends of Cimino's family, recently came from Illinois to help Cimino grow the business. Thompson is a big Clay Mac Band fan.
"If you know him, you'll love him. Once you meet him, he's your best friend," Thompson said. "It's the exuberance of his performances that really stand out. He knows how to work the audience."
The location, which opened as the Castle Rock Trading Post in 1871, served local mining communities and was a main hub for people passing through. Things have changed drastically in the last 140 years. But the free shows allow regulars and newcomers alike a chance to celebrate Castle Rock's longevity under its current ownership as well as over the last century-and-a-half, experience what it has to offer right now and enjoy some free live tunes.
It hasn't been an easy seven years of existence for the Cimino's Castle Rock.
"To this day, we're still in a struggle," Cimino said. "We're fighting every day (to be a successful business), and it's because of the support (from customers and the community) that we're still alive."
From offering an innovative menu with foods outside the realm of typical bar fare, to holding rap concerts featuring personalities such as Flavor Flav, Cimino and the Castle Rock staff have tried all kinds of things to bring in business. Some ideas were successful while others fell on their face, but the point is Cimino will try a lot of different things to improve the Castle Rock experience.
Now in its 7th year, Cimino wants to make Castle Rock more family oriented by hosting all-ages shows, rodeo events and maybe a carnival. There's even live Mariachi music once a month. It's Cimino's goal to provide a venue - with catering - for locals to host fundraisers, weddings and other types of community events.
Though Cimino is creating a more family oriented establishment, his regulars will not be lost in the shuffle. Without the regulars, this place would be finished, Cimino said. They helped the business make it through the tougher time, and he appreciated them for that. But he wants everyone - from teenagers to senior citizens - to know about Castle Rock and become regulars as well.
"It's about building the community and understanding the economy," Cimino said. "(At Castle Rock) you can have a great evening without breaking the bank."
It's not uncommon for Castle Rock visitors to see Cimino carrying on with each person who works for him. Whether he's talking to the two artists commissioned to paint murals for the outside of the outdoor patio and stage area or to the guys responsible for putting banners up along the front of the establishment, Cimino tells people who work for him what he wants, compliments them on their work and can often be overheard saying, "I love you guys."
"Every one of my people go to the mat for me," Cimino said. "Everybody cares, and I love them for that. It's our dedication that keeps this place going."
Cimino hopes to hire 20 people over the next two years as he continues to try to grow Castle Rock into a "destination."
"It's an ongoing project," Thompson said. "And it will probably continue that way for the next 25 years."