A mighty wind will be blowing in Denver this weekend at the annual summer strumming extravaganza known as the Swallow Hill Folk Festival. Music will be played continuously on two stages from 5:30 to 9 p.m. tonight and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday at Four Mile Historic Park, 715 South Forest Street. The lineup includes three headliners -- Tom Paxton, Ruthie Foster and Open Road -- along with dozens of Colorado acts including Colcannon, the Coal Creek Bluegrass Band, the Stanleytones, Dakota Blonde and Chuck Pyle. "The lineup is just huge," says Freya Lustie, spokeswoman for the music association. "We're really trying to expose people to all the amazing musicians that we have here in the Front Range area."
In addition, the fest will feature jam sessions, workshops, handcrafted local art, food vendors and a beer garden. "Drop by one of the tents and learn how to play the pennywhistle, how to make an instrument, give clogging a try," says Lustie. "Or you can sit in on an Irish jam, a bluegrass jam or join a kids' sing-along."
"What sets our festival apart is that it's not just people sitting back and watching others perform; it's very interactive," notes Jim Williams, Swallow Hill's executive director. "We really encourage everyone to bring their own instruments and participate. It's so great to walk around and hear music coming from every direction."
On Sunday, beginning at 5:45 p.m., the four finalists in Swallow Hill's recent songwriters' contest will compete for prizes, including studio time and a performance slot at the music center. "It going to be a really close call," says Lustie. "They're all really talented."
Ticket prices for tonight's performances are $5 for adults and $2 for children; Saturday and Sunday's prices range from $12 to $18, and festival passes are available for $22 to $25. Call 303-777-1003 or visit www.swallowhill.com for further details. -- Julie Dunn
When the music program at Ebert Elementary School, 410 Park Avenue West, was cut in 2002, Judy Brady, a pianist who lives in the neighborhood, decided to take action. "I got fired up," she recalls. "It really bothered me."
So Brady created Spark in the Park, an afternoon of music that raised over $3,500 -- enough to fund a year of the Friday Afternoon Music Club, which taught twenty fourth- and fifth-graders to play the piano.
"These kids are unbelievably talented," says Brady. "They just hadn't had any exposure to the piano before."
This year's Spark will take place today from noon to 6 p.m. at Sweet Rockin' Coffee, 414 East 20th Street; performers include Brady, Wendy Woo, Brad Hamilton, Tony Medina and Cocktail Revolution. Admission is just $1; call 303-318-9788 for details. -- Julie Dunn
First Class Dash
When the United Nations announced that Ethiopians were desperately in need of food aid, Nebiyu Asfaw and other Colorado volunteers came together in the Ethiopian Drought Relief Aid of Colorado. They also assembled the first Ethiopian Day Festival and 5K Run/Walk for Famine Relief, which kick off today at Denver's City Park from 9 a.m. to 3p.m. All runners' fees and donations will go directly to the United Nations agency mandated to combat global hunger. After the run, participants, friends and the community at large are invited to celebrate Colorado's growing Ethiopian population at the finish-line gala. The festival will include traditional Ethiopian fare, community speakers and tribal dances. "The Ethiopian Day Festival is a way to bring everyone together," says Asfaw.
Pledge forms and registration information are available at www.walkforfamine.org. Race fees are $25 ($15 for minors and seniors); all entrants will receive a T-shirt, and prizes will be awarded to the top five male and female racers. -- Kity Ironton
Art steps out in humble style
No one can call you stingy because of your thrifty footwear today, when the quintessentially casual flip-flop becomes high art as part of Flip-Flop Friday. The Art Students League of Denver has asked local celebrities, organizations and design firms to create and construct dozens of pairs of flip-flops that will be up for silent auction tonight at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. The only guideline given to contributors, which include the Colorado Historical Society, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Dumb Friends League, the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and the Children's Museum, is that the finished work of art should be inspired by the flop. Some designers decorate store-bought flops, while others construct them out of unexpected materials -- concrete, for example.
"It's really a fun, imaginative, non-restrictive event for everyone," says Anne Macomber, marketing director for the League.
Proceeds from the event will go to the ASLD's programs, which serve area artists of all ages and abilities. The school has also teamed with local businesses to reward patrons wearing flip-flops today. For example, they will get two-for-one admission to the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and the Colorado History Museum, and west Denver boutique Posh will give away goody bags to flip-flop-wearing customers.
Admission to the auction, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m., is free; the Wynkoop is at 1624 18th Street in LoDo. Call the Art Students League at 303-778-6990 for details. -- Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz
Work for Play
Volunteers spruce up school playgrounds
For years, playgrounds at many of Denver's public schools were depressing patches of asphalt with hardly a tree or shrub in sight. That was the case until recently at Columbian Elementary school in northwest Denver, where the schoolyard is being transformed by a group of University of Colorado at Denver landscape architecture students and Columbian supporters. New play equipment is being installed, a mural painted by Columbian students is going up, gravel is being replaced by a lawn with trees and picnic tables, and a xeriscape garden with a kinetic sculpture will give the playground the feel of a neighborhood park.
Bambi Yost, project manager for the Learning Landscape Alliance, says the group is planning more than half a dozen such transformations in the next six weeks, and volunteers are needed. From about 8 a.m. this morning until 4 p.m. this afternoon, workers will be at Castro Elementary, 845 South Lowell Boulevard. On deck: Gilpin (September 6), Barrett (September 13), Ebert (September 20) and Mitchell (September 27). For more information, contact Yost at 303-556-6655. -- Stuart Steers