Every weekend throughout the summer and fall, you will find a festival happening somewhere in Colorado, celebrating food, music, and much more. Here we break down 10 of our state’s nationally renowned events.
Strawberry Days, Glenwood Springs
The theme of this year’s 122nd annual Strawberry Days is “Homecoming,” and visitors can shop the arts and crafts fair and dine on strawberry-centric treats in the food court. Live music plays throughout the weekend, and the theme is reflected in the organizers’ choice to book bands from the area or that have a member who lives or grew up here. Families will enjoy pony rides, dancing and singing, and the interactive HawkQuest booth.
Don’t miss Saturday’s Strawberry Days parade followed by free strawberries and ice cream. Another favorite event is the Miss Strawberry Days competition—the oldest civic festival competition west of the Mississippi. The competition lets young women from local high schools earn substantial scholarships based on leadership skills, volunteerism, poise, and representation as a community ambassador.
Strawberry Days partners with EverGreen ZeroWaste; approximately 85% of all trash collected from the festival was either recycled or composted last year, and they are hoping to beat those numbers.
From its rodeo roots, the Greeley Stampede is focused on preserving western heritage and celebrating the country’s independence. The 2019 stampede marks the event’s 98th year and will feature six rodeo performances, six Stampede Arena concerts, a popular carnival, more than 100 commercial and food vendors, a western art show, Colorado’s largest demolition derby, daily live music, and a 4th of July parade and fireworks. The event is family friendly and affordable; a selection of free entertainment is part of your park admission, including the Kids Korral area and two music stages with local and national bands.
Another tenet of the Greeley Stampede is a dedication to the community. The Stampede is a nonprofit organization that supports its own Greeley Stampede Foundation and many other nonprofits, churches, and organizations. There is also the Rodeos for a Cause series, supporting breast cancer awareness with the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night and military appreciation night to raise funds for the local honor flight.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver
This event transforms the Cherry Creek North neighborhood into a juried fine art and craft market. Aficionados can view (and buy) artworks by 260 artists and five “emerging artists” working across 13 different media categories plus artist demos, interactive family-friendly art projects, food, and live entertainment. Bonus: Admission is always free.
Family-friendly “ARTivity Avenue” includes the “Imagination Collaboration Mural”—a community-created artwork, and the “Creation Station,” where kids can learn and create take-home projects like buttons, bracelets, and coffee-filter flowers.
For 2019, there will be 76 first-time artist exhibitors, featuring painting, photography, glass, sculpture, jewelry, fashion, mixed media, digital arts, and more. New artist demonstrations are open to the public as are a fresh lineup of live music concerts and pop-up performances. It’s a world-class and award-winning celebration of visual, culinary, and performing arts.
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
The 33rd annual Crested Butte Wildflower Festival takes place in the designated “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” a title earned because of the abundance and variety of wildflowers found in the area. Organizers are telling us this past winter’s bountiful snowfall should make for a spectacular wildflower display this summer.
Events include hikes and walks (from beginner to expert), photography, art, birding and butterflies, and learning culinary and medicinal uses for local flora. Popular happenings are the Geobotany Van Tours, Historic Garden Tours, and Gothic Wildflowers at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Don’t miss the signature hike to Aspen, a 12-mile trek over West Maroon Pass (a shuttle ride gets you back).
New this summer will be several free speaking events, including a talk by native bee expert Paige Embry, who will speak about the intricate relationship between our wildflowers and native pollinators. In addition, this year is the first for a variety of children’s programming with options for babies through school-age kids.
Colorado Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, Steamboat Springs
The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo is an unmatched spectacle. Getting to the grounds early is recommended to watch the pilots set up and the balloons inflate. Once airborne, the rodeo—which features contests such as dipping into Bald Eagle Lake—you’re guaranteed a good show because balloon pilots can be pretty competitive.
Just down the road, another colorful scene awaits at Art in the Park, where arts and crafts, performances, and an interactive children’s area will fill your day.
New for this year: The Saturday Night Glow event is being moved from Steamboat Resort to Howelsen Hill and downtown Steamboat. If you’ve never seen one, you shouldn’t miss it; hot-air balloons inflate but stay on the ground and illuminate the dark sky amid a backdrop of live music, kids’ activities, food/drink vendors, and merchant booths.
Vail Dance Festival
The Vail Dance Festival presents its 31st season, featuring world premieres and commissions, new collaborations and partnerships, and debuts by artists and companies. It brings together more than 150 dancers, musicians, composers, and choreographers for 11 performances and related events celebrating dance and music.
New York City Ballet principal dancer Lauren Lovette is the 2019 Festival Artist-in-Residence; she will choreograph a new ballet, star in a new work by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Hope Boykin, teach master classes, and participate in community activities. This summer’s world premieres will include a new collaboration between legendary choreographer Alonzo King and jazz luminary Jason Moran. The Festival will also present new works by Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, and Tiler Peck, and the Vail premiere of Annabel Lopez-Ochoa’s The Little Prince, performed by BalletX.
Additional companies this year include American Ballet Theatre in a mixed bill celebrating its history and future, the Martha Graham Dance Company presenting a new work along with Appalachian Spring and other Graham classics, and Ballet Hispánico in a special program for closing night of the Festival. Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company will make its Vail debut with a program featuring dances made for the young company by Ronald K. Brown and Sonya Tayeh.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience
The JAS Labor Day Experience offers top-notch headliners with an amazing Rocky Mountain backdrop. This year, check out H.E.R., Luke Combs, Portugal. The Man, and lots more. The three nights culminate with, respectively, Weezer, John Mayer, and Sting. Each day’s concerts begin in the afternoon, leaving time for mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, or rafting in the morning. Plenty of late night events are scheduled at venues around town, and it’s not unusual for some of the biggest names playing the main stage to make surprise appearances.
JAS offers VIP tickets, which include grilled-to-order food, live cooking stations, a gourmet dinner, premium open bars, private restrooms, and standing room access areas in front of the stage.
JAS is a 501c3 organization with a focus on providing world-class music education. Event proceeds benefit many music programs up and down the Roaring Fork Valley in public schools as well as a summer residency, The JAS Academy, for talented college-age musicians.
Telluride Blues and Brews Festival
This is one of the most scenic and intimate music festivals in the country, three days of live music, craft beer, and more in the San Juan Mountains in Telluride. The music includes blues, rock, soul, gospel and jam bands on three stages and five late-night venues. This year’s lineup features Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Boz Scaggs, Anders Osborne, Ryan Bingham, Tab Benoit, Hiss Golden Messenger, and many more that will be announced after we go to press.
Of course, what would blues be without the brews? It began as the Telluride Brewer’s Festival on Main Street and has evolved to host 56 of the best craft breweries in America. The 25-year-old “Grand Tasting” is one of the premiere craft beer events in the region and allows thousands of festival attendees to explore more than 170 styles of beer and cider.
The festival has a philanthropic element as well. Last year, the festival raised more than $50,000 for nonprofits, including the Music Maker Relief Foundation founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South. The festival also hosts a “Blisters & Brews” 5k Fundraiser benefiting the Adaptive Sports Program.
Colorado Mountain Winefest, Palisade
Every September, thousands travel to Colorado’s wine country for the largest wine festival in the state, which was recently named the “Best Wine Festival in the Nation” by USA Today.
The weekend’s festivities begin with food and wine pairings at restaurants throughout the Grand Valley. Or check out Wine Dine & Paint, where guests can paint a version of this year’s commemorative poster while enjoying wine and hor d’oeuvres. On Friday or Sunday, you can explore the area on one of the wine country bus tours: Friday’s tour traverses the Grand Mesa, and the Town & Country Sunday Bus Tour visit’s Palisade’s wineries and vineyards and stops at several downtown Grand Junction tasting rooms. In addition seminars include the Riedel Wine & Glass Experience and the very popular Chocolate & Wine Tasting.
The Festival in the Park takes place on Saturday, September 21, with more than 60 Colorado wineries for an amazing day of tastings with unlimited sips of wine, a commemorative tasting glass and tote, chef demos, a grape stomp, and live music.
Chile & Frijoles Festival, Pueblo
The unmistakable scent of roasting chiles will pervade the air above Pueblo’s Union Avenue Historic District in this year’s 25th annual chilebration, which marks the harvest of two of Pueblo’s top crops: green chile (primarily Mira Sol peppers) and pinto beans. The festival averages 140,000 attendees over the three days, and local farmers sell around $50,000 worth of these spicy specialties.
The event features five entertainment tents, live entertainment, street vendors, and much more. An extensive farmer’s market has a wide selection of bell peppers, yellow wax peppers, sweet and hot Anaheim green chiles, and jalapeños plus the flavor-packed Mira Sol or Pueblo chile.
The Chile and Salsa Showdown lets contestants in both commercial and noncommercial categories compete for the title of best red chili, best green chili, and best salsa. And don’t miss the wild and wiggly Chihuahuas on parade or the jalapeño-eating competition.