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Celebrate Autumn with a Festival

Mexican dancers perform at the Chile and Frijoles Festival 
in Pueblo.

Mexican dancers perform at the Chile and Frijoles Festival in Pueblo.

Some replicate the German tradition of Oktoberfest, some celebrate the autumn harvest, and some take advantage of folks out to see the fall colors.

Summer’s over, but the fun’s not. Most Colorado towns, cities and ski areas celebrate the onset of fall with festivals small and large.

The Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival  

 Sept. 6-9 in Estes Park, is one of the state’s most elaborate and popular fall events.

There will be five bagpipe bands playing this year, says Peggy Young, vice president of the festival, and at one point they all play together in what’s called a tattoo. A popular moment is when they converge en masse to play “Amazing Grace,” the music echoing off the nearby foothills of the Rockies. 

“The athletes are also a huge part of the program,” she says, and visitors flock to watch jousting, caber tossing and other traditional competitions.

Don’t miss the highland dance and the Irish exhibitions, also. Another favorite is watching trained dogs herd sheep. 

“The crowd just loves them,” she says. 

The largest such event in Colorado, it draws about 60,000 visitors over the weekend. Many of them take time to look up their genealogy, to see what clan they belong to. 

“We are special in that we offer so much in one day, you can just take it all in,” she says.

“You also get to taste unique foods from Scotland, like Scotch eggs and meat pies. We do have a vendor who sells haggis, but I’m not sure how popular that is,” she says, laughing. “But it’s always good to try something once.”

Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the gate, per day. 

The Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival

Sept. 21-23 is just a short drive south of Colorado Springs. Yes, you can buy fresh-roasted Pueblo chiles at any local farmer’s market, but this event offers so much more. It honors a special, intensely flavorful variety of green chile, served smoking on a stick, tucked into a quesadilla or blended into fresh salsa. 

The event includes cooking competitions, like the Chile and Salsa Showdown, a jalapeno-eating contest, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, and a farmers’ market.

About 100,000 people fill the streets of downtown Pueblo every year for the celebration of the local harvest. 

Oktoberfest Denver 

Sept. 21–23 and 28–30, is the largest such one in the state. And although Oktoberfest may be centered around beer, downtown Denver’s celebration offers fun for the whole family with such events as a hilarious Dachshund Derby, German costume contests, food booths, live music and polka dancing, of course.

The Denver Oktoberfest draws more than 350,000 people during the six-day festival. It’s been dubbed “The Best Oktoberfest” in the United States, and it’s also one of the largest U.S. beer festivals based on consumption of the locally popular brew. Though it dates back to 1810 in Bavaria, it didn’t start in Denver until 1969. Guess they’re making up for lost time.

If you’re looking for more than a day trip along the Front Range, consider this one:

Applefest 

 Oct. 6–7, happens in the small Western Slope town of Cedaredge. 

Situated on Colorado’s Grand Mesa, you’ll pass some splendid fall colors before coming upon endless rows of trees adorned with shiny red and green apples. Nearly 200 vendors share the area’s agricultural bounty with visitors, who can also enjoy a classic car and antique tractor show, food booths, music by live local bands and an art fair.

 It’s one of Western Colorado’s biggest outdoor festivals.