Some of us are used to spending our Colorado summers hopping from festival to festival, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Kayaking one weekend, tasting craft beers the next. Practicing mindfulness on a yoga mat in the shadows of the San Juan Mountains, then chilling out on a blanket, listening to some of the best bluegrass musicians in the world. We’ll take in an old-fashioned, main-street parade one Saturday and then spend the next gorging on all things peaches.
This article was first published in this year’s Summer Getaways, an annual magazine from The Denver Post focused on outdoor recreation. Find more Summer Getaways stories here >>>
This summer is going to be … different. Just as it has upturned the rest of our lives in recent months, the new coronavirus has thrown a wrench into the usual, packed schedule of summer gatherings in Colorado. No FIBArk this year. No Telluride Bluegrass and no Strawberry Days, either. Keystone Wine and Jazz? Nope. Organizers encourage us to “Stay home, stay safe, and stay jazzy.” Health precautions have even put the hammer down on Leadville Boom Days!
While some festival organizers are already putting their efforts into bigger and better returns in 2021, others are forging ahead with plans for the weeks ahead, adding safety steps into the mix. This list includes gatherings that were still on the books in early June. As with all trips in this Pandemic Summer, do a bit of research before you pack the car and head out the door (water bottle, sunscreen, hat, mask, hand sanitizer…). Plans change in an instant these days.
Juneteenth Music Festival
Juneteeth is an annual celebration of the day when news of slavery ending reached Galveston, Texas, in 1865. This year’s festival, including music, dance, comedy shows and artisans, will be held virtually to help protect everyone’s health. See the website for details and a schedule. Plan to gather in person for food and fun, including the traditional parade, in 2021. juneteenthmusicfestival.com
June 24-July 5
The 99th edition of the Stampede is postponed a year, but organizers are working to organize a fireworks show and rodeo this summer. Those who have purchased tickets for this year’s fun can get credit to attend 2021 festivities, donate the money to community organizations or request a refund. Greeley, greeleystampede.org
Colorado Brewers’ Festival
This Fort Collins tradition, more than three decades strong, has been postponed. Organizers hope to announce a fall date for fans to gather and sample beers from more than 50 Colorado breweries as well as groove to live music, peruse artisans’ ware and enjoy yummy food. Watch the website for updates. Fort Collins, downtownfortcollins.com/events/colorado-brewers-festival
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
We could all use a little more fresh air and wildflowers in our lives. Good news: You can surround yourself with pretty blooms at the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, which includes workshops, classes, hikes, birdwatching outings and more. Organizers are limiting this year’s activities to events that can be held outdoors and in groups of no more than 8 people. Activities may change as guidelines allow. Crested Butte, crestedbuttewildflowerfestival.com
Since 1971, Mountain Fair has been bringing people together to celebrate summer in Carbondale. The festival annually features tons of live music, more than 145 arts and craft vendors, delicious foods and fun contests in everything from pie-baking to wood-splitting. There’s also a family area with kids’ activities and events. Plans are underway to hold as safe a gathering as possible, although it will not take place in Sopris Park. Carbondale, carbondalearts.com/mountain-fair
July 31-Aug. 11
Vail Dance Festival
This two-week celebration of all things dance, movement and artistry has been postponed. Instead, special performances from past years will be shared online during the festival dates. Ticket holders may request a refund, exchange for 2021 performances or donate to the festival to cover expenses. Learn more at 970-845-8497, [email protected] or online at vaildance.org.
Olathe Sweet Corn Festival
You can get all the sweet corn stuck in your teeth and no one will care at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, an annual tribute to this tasty yellow vegetable. There’s live music, activities for kids … oh, and tables full of sweet corn. Olathe, olathesweetcornfest.com
Bluegrass & Beer Festival
You like beer and bluegrass, right? So what are you waiting for? This popular Keystone festival is celebrating its 24th year with an impressive bluegrass lineup and tons of delicious craft beer. The threat of COVID-19 put the kibosh on the Bacon and Bourbon Festival in June, but this good time is still “all-systems go!” Keystone, keystonefestivals.com/festivals/bluegrass-and-beer
Vail Craft Beer Classic
Head to Vail for a weekend of beer, cider and hard seltzers. There are beer tastings and events throughout the weekend, so you can pick and choose or stay for the entire festival. Vail, vailcraftbeerclassic.com
Palisade Peach Festival
The end of summer means one thing in Palisade: delicious peaches. And what better way to show appreciation for these juice fruits than with a three-day festival? While a spring frost damaged this year’s harvest, you can still celebrate with live music, a peach-inspired vendor market, peach foods, orchard tours, farm tours and activities for kids. There’s also a car show, a peach eating contest and more. Palisade, palisadepeachfest.com
Cherry Creek North Food & Wine
Head to Cherry Creek North for this annual festival, which is celebrating its 12th year. You’ll find wine, beer, spirits, live music and, of course, incredible food. Cherry Creek North, cherrycreeknorth.com
Aug. 28-Sept. 7
Colorado State Fair
You’re not really a true Coloradan until you’ve attended the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. There’s something for everyone here, whether you love deep-fried foods, watching livestock shows, screaming on carnival rides or jamming out to live music. Performers are confirmed for this year’s fair and tickets are scheduled to go on sale July 10. Organizers warn that the event could still be canceled. Check their website for updates. Pueblo, coloradostatefair.com
Hot Air Balloon Rodeo
The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, in its 39th year, features tons of colorful hot air balloons floating serenely over the Yampa Valley, balloon glows in the evening and even competitive events for the balloon pilots. There will be health and safety precautions in place, including multiple hand-washing and sanitation stations. Guests are requested to wear masks and to stay home if they are feeling ill. Bald Eagle Lake, Steamboat Springs, hotairballoonrodeo.com
Four Corners Folk Festival
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Four Corners Folk Festival, held every summer in Pagosa Springs. Live music, camping, workshops, kids programming (performances, arts and crafts; kids 12 and younger get in free) and more are on tap this year. Organizers warn that the event may be canceled. Check the event’s website for updates. Pagosa Springs, folkwest.com
Slow Food Nations
This massive food festival brings together more than 30,000 people to tackle big questions and issues related to food, food culture and agriculture. Due to so many unknown variables in the industry and changing safety concerns the festival is postponed to 2021. However, organizers are planning to share virtual programming. Watch the website for details. Donate online to help restaurants and staff members via the Slow Food USA National Resilience Fund. slowfoodnations.org
Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival
Even if you don’t have a kilt in your closet you can still appreciate and celebrate all things Scottish and Irish at this three-day festival in Estes Park. There’s live music, a parade, athletic competitions and dog exhibitions. Plus, highland dance competitions and piping. Estes Park, scotfest.com
Snowmass Balloon Festival, Septemberfest and Cidermass
The time has come to get in the mood for fall. Head to Snowmass for hot air balloons in the morning, a cider festival during the day and a fall festival in the evening (featuring live music, kids’ activities, lawn games, vendors and more). Snowmass, gosnowmass.com/event/snowmass-septemberfest
Downtown Boulder’s Fall Fest
Boulder likes to wave goodbye to summer and usher in fall all at the same time during this three-day festival. Here, you’ll find kids’ activities, local food and craft beer and a market full of handmade, artisan wares. Boulder, boulderdowntown.com/events/fall-fest
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
For 27 years, the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival has been bringing world-class musicians to this picturesque mountain town. This year, the genres include gospel, soul, jam-band, rock, indie, funk and blues. There are also tons of activities for kids, a 5K race, yoga sessions, food and craft vendors and more. Organizers plan to implement safety measures that exceed mandated standards and protocol in order to hold the festival and safeguard attendees’, staff and performers’ health. Telluride, tellurideblues.com
Stanley Arts Festival
This free two-day festival at Stanley Marketplace features activities for families, live entertainment, interactive art installations, art exhibits, an art auction and more. Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, stanleyartsfestival.org
Colorado BBQ Challenge
Mmmm, barbecue. You can eat your fill — and then some — at the annual Colorado BBQ Challenge, a beloved festival on Frisco’s Main Street that’s been happening since the early 1990s. After you stuff your face with smoked meats and sides, you can watch free concerts, chef demos, street performers and pig races. There’s also a 6K run and walk, and a whiskey tour. Main Street between Madison and Sixth avenues, Frisco, townoffrisco.com/play/colorado-bbq-challenge
Get a refund or show your support
Virtually all of the festivals and events that have been canceled this summer are already on the books for 2021. If you purchased tickets for an event that has been canceled, visit the event website or call the festival office to ask about a refund or an exchange for tickets to next year’s fun. Some festivals also give you an option to donate the cost of your tickets to cover expenses; there are musicians and dancers and actors and staff members who need to be paid. Here are a few examples:
Cherry Creek Arts Festival
This summer staple featuring the works of more than 250 juried artists has been canceled. Still, the nonprofit CherryArts promotes art year-round with sales of artists’ work and community outreach. You can shop for juried artists’ work and support community art projects online at cherryarts.org.
High Mountain Hay Fever Festival
Although this annual Westcliffe event, a showcase for some of the best bluegrass around, is canceled, you can still donate to the Children’s Health Fund, which benefits from the festival, at highmountainhayfever.org.
Central City Opera Festival
Performances are postponed to summer 2021. Ticket holders may request a refund, exchange for 2021 shows or donate the cost of their tickets to help support the 2020 company. Donations to support this year’s company players and technicians are accepted online and will be matched up to $100,000 by Carousel Performance Sponsors and long-time CCO supporters, Pam and Dutch Bansbach. centralcityopera.org/2020-festival.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Experience
All artists scheduled to perform this year, including Steve Nicks, Eric Church, Kings of Leon and Maren Morris, have committed to return to Colorado to perform Sept. 3-5, 2021. JAS is offering private, virtual music lessons to students this summer. Ticket holders can ask for a refund or donate the ticket value to help continue to provide instruction and other opportunities for musicians. Learn more at jazzaspensnowmass.org.
Sip cocktails for a good cause? Sign us up. This Lakewood fundraiser is canceled, but organizers encourage you to support local distilleries and consider donating to event beneficiary The Posner Center for International Development, which works to disrupt global poverty; partybcause.com/303-cocktails.html, posnercenter.org.
A Taste of Colorado
We’ll have to send off summer in some other fashion this year. Organizers encourage fans to support vendors by shopping from the regular participants listed here: downtowndenver.com/a-taste-of-colorado-2020.
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