The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is like the Lexus SUV of summer activities in metro Denver.
Just as the luxurious sport-utility vehicle seems oversized, so the scale of the fourteen-year-old festival -- which typically draws 350,000 visitors during its three-day run -- can be overwhelming. Likewise, the dozens of knobs and dials on the Lexi's dashboard can be as dazzling as the array of official CCAF merchandise available (including rain gear, bibs and cherry stress balls!).
Still, most people who cop a feel of the car's smooth upholstery will probably forget to mock its yuppie excess. In a similar way, skeptics who join the pilgrimage to this massive arts gathering will probably come to appreciate the high-quality performance.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, July 5, with an accessibility hour from 9 to 10 a.m., Second and Third avenues between Clayton and Steele streets in Cherry Creek North, free, w ww.cherryarts.org
Such an attitude adjustment is likely, because the 2004 model of the festival -- which runs from Saturday, July 3, through Monday, July 5, on Second and Third avenues between Clayton and Steele streets -- is fully loaded. For starters, there are the 225 artists selected through a competitive jury process to push their crafts. Beyond that, a Culinary Row will feature food from restaurants selected by a similar jury. Three stages running dawn-to-dusk demonstrations offer added atmosphere, including a family-friendly venue conveniently located near Artivity Avenue (an entire city block dedicated to hands-on crafts). Music rounds out the package, with sundown performances by the Hazel Miller Band on Saturday and Opie Gone Bad on Sunday.
An option for those besieged by the festival's endless choices is to create a personal itinerary in advance at www.cherryarts.org. Prospective attendees can bookmark attractions they don't want to miss and print out a list of the chosen sites and their locations.
One don't-miss stop is the Art on Two Wheels tent. The celebration of motorcycle life through art is back by popular demand for its second year, with plenty to lure hardcore hawg fans. (A $2 admission fee for adults benefits CCAF outreach and education programs.)
The work of Boulder-based photographer Michael Lichter, who has captured the chopper lifestyle on camera since the '70s, will be featured in this year's tented biker microcosm. Lichter collaborated with Segal Fine Arts and festival representatives to create the exhibit. "Last year, I think they just wanted to wow the public," he says. "This year, I was trying to go a little more in depth."
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In addition to Lichter's photos, Art on Two Wheels will spotlight work from the daddy of all biker artists, former Easyriders magazine centerfold specialist David Mann.
"David is a hero to many bikers," says Lichter. "His signature is so recognized you wouldn't even have to read it." Mann began depicting motorcycle culture a decade ahead of Lichter, helping to define the distinct way of life through his illustrations.
Along with the two artists' works, fifteen choppers chosen by Lichter will be on display. "I wanted them to be bikes that could have come out of one of David's paintings or that could have influenced a painting," he says.
With something for just about everyone, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival promises a smooth ride, whether you prefer choppers, SUVs or anything in between.