WINTER WONDERLAND

Country stars play hard and open up their hearts for a good cause in Colorado's majestic Rocky Mountains.

The 10th annual Country in the Rockies had it all. There was a genuine country legend. A superstar couple patching up a very public split. A pop star who taught the world to "cut loose" and cuddle with Winnie the Pooh. Two young lovers - one a member of a hard-driving country trio - setting the stage for a summer wedding. A cancer survivor who became famous for outdoing the devil. A gorgeous pool-hustling newcomer. And more than a dozen other country stars and hit songwriters skiing, snowmobiling, riding horses and lifting their voices in song to raise money for cancer research.

"I had my theater in Branson, Missouri, for thirteen years, so I was always tied up when charity events came along," explained the legendary Mel Tillis, standing in front of Colorado's rugged Mount Crested Butte. "I was doing four hundred shows a year - two shows, six days a week a lot of the time. Then I sold the theater about a year-and-a-half ago."

Recently Mel was chatting at a Nashville dinner with Frances Preston, president of the performing-rights organization BMI and the driving force behind Country in the Rockies since it began 10 years ago. "I told her I had read in Country Weekly about Country in the Rockies and that I wanted to do it," he recalled. "And I'm so honored to be here.

"It's been a real educational few days," admitted Mel, whose No. 1s during his nearly 50-year career include "I Ain't Never," "Good Woman Blues" and "Coca Cola Cowboy." "I'm meeting a lot of the younger acts, like Trick Pony, and talking to them about their view of the business in these new times. And they're asking me about the old times."

To read more of Winter Wonderland, pick up the newest issue of Country Weekly Magazine!

-- Story by Larry Holden

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