While there are dozens of great markets and fairs highlighting Denver's burgeoning artisan and craft scene during the holidays, Kalina Ross wanted more. The event planner saw a need for something other than just a place for shoppers and creators to cross paths -- she wanted to see direct connections. This Friday's inaugural Night Fair Before Christmas at the Parkside Mansion is Ross's first attempt at an arts, music and local commerce-oriented party, an evening of fun and celebration for the whole family.
The night will feature a pop-up market of local vendors selling gifts for the holidays, multiple musical acts performing throughout the Parkside Mansion, face-painting from Karma Leigh, a photo booth and more. Ross says after taking a bit of a hiatus from event planning, she was ready to come back with a totally new concept, one that allowed for performers, sellers and guests to intersect in a more intimate way.
"The main message that I wanted to come out with is that I was ready to start connecting more -- I wanted the physical contact, and to give people a good feeling," says Ross. "You know, it is nice to go see the vendors and what they can make, but we really want to get to know you and understand how you think as a local artist. Same with the musicians -- seeing someone on the stage versus seeing someone right in your face, feeling their breath on you, watching the way that they are singing the lyrics."
Throughout the multi-level mansion, vendors will be showcasing locally made jewelry, apparel and plenty of art. An improvisational music station manned by artist FAST4WRD will provide delightful sounds during the night, plus Dax Oliver, Bianca Mikahn and Miguel Duran will do interactive walking tributes to the holidays as they perform songs throughout the building. Youth singers Riley DeNorch and Tunisia Lopez Foster are also part of the evening's festivities. Ross says it was imperative to include kids in the event, because she sees them as so key to the success of future community events.
Co-hosting a similar event at the Parkside Mansion last year with friend Phaedra High -- the two were part of Urban Cipher, another community-centered event planning group -- Ross says after a brief break from the work, she was ready to come out on her own, and the Night Fair Before Christmas will be her coming out party.
A meeting with Denver fashion figure and local business consultant Brandi Shigley inspired High and Ross's work together. "I was wondering what is it -- why do we all try to do the same thing here in Denver and not do it together?," says Ross. "Phaedra and I met Brandi last October, and I have to give her credit for inspiring us and pushing us to go, to throw our hearts out there and just do it."
Over the last summer, Ross also hosted the Love Buzz Patio Cafe, a pop-up restaurant she ran out of her own kitchen each Sunday. Guests were offered two homemade, organic entree options at the donation-based eatery, with everything made from scratch by Ross. Her mother and two school-age daughters were the waitresses. Ross says even with the winter weather, people still ask if she'll open up the makeshift diner again soon.
While it is too cold for Ross's outdoor lunch spot, she is going full speed with more community-connecting events like the Night Fair Before Christmas, and is optimistic about its success as a party that brings strangers together. "I really wanted to start connecting these circles -- less separation and more team work in Denver. We're so still so small," Ross says with a laugh.
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The Night Fair Before Christmas goes off tomorrow, December 20, from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Parkside Mansion. Tickets are $5 at the door for adults; children are free. Raffle tickets for cash and prize giveaways will also be sold for 50 cents. The gathering is all-ages, but there will be a cash bar as well as snacks for sale. For more information, visit the Night Fair Before Christmas's Facebook event page.