Colorado overflows with festivals in the summer. Looking for high adventure? Culture? Diversity? Art? From the high country to city streets, this state has it all: You can get to know your neighbors, get to know your world. Get wet, get wild.
Here are ten ways to get wet and wild this summer.
FIBArk Whitewater Festival
FIBArk (which is short for “First In Boating the Arkansas,” in case you wondered) started in 1949 with only six boats cascading through a 57-mile whitewater course at the height of the spring runoff season, from Salida to Cañon City via the Royal Gorge. Over the seventy years since then, the course has shortened but the event has grown, exponentially, into a town festival with events for everyone, on and off the raging whitewater. The fest’s signature downriver races in various divisions happen Sunday, June 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but there’s so much more to do and see throughout the long weekend, from a raft rodeo and other fun water events to bike and running races, a skatepark showdown, a parade and more on land.
Denver PrideFest 2019
Civic Center Park
Denver PrideFest is not only the largest LGBTQ celebration in the region, it’s also one of the top ten pride events in the nation. This year’s fest offers three stages of live entertainment ranging from drag shows to special appearances by YouTube sensation Todrick Hall and RuPaul runner-up Peppermint, along with more than 250 exhibitors, as well as Denver artist Lonnie Hanzon’s Stonewall 50: Progress and Reflection history installation. Sunday’s PrideFest Parade brings tradition to the proceedings, stepping off from Cheesman Park at 9:30 a.m. and marching down East Colfax Avenue to Civic Center Park, with thousands of spectators lining the route and plenty of rainbow colors.
Arts on the Block (Aurora Arts Festival)
Fletcher Plaza, Aurora
Small can be better, as the Arts on the Block Aurora Arts Festival proves by celebrating the creative community living and working within Aurora’s boundaries. Live art and music, ethnic dance, kids’ rides, pop-up performances and an Aurora-centric vendor market all have a part in making visitors feel right at home in the town in Denver's side yard. This homey festival is just big enough to be great, yet small enough to be manageable and neighborly. Admission is free.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Cherry Creek North
A well-oiled machine with an upscale vibe, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival isn’t as much about challenging or confounding art as it is about well-made, whimsical and rawly beautiful art and craft, made by 265 juried local and national artists. Works were judged in fourteen categories, from ceramics to wood, and the lucky chosen artists are ready to wow you — and chat with you, too — as you peruse the booths. CCAF’s level of class is more than upheld by surrounding festivities that include art performances, live music, ARTivity Avenue activities for families and delicious food-truck fare.
Colorado Black Arts Festival
Denver City Park
A tradition on the western end of City Park now in its 33rd year, the Colorado Black Arts Festival sports an African village-themed layout and exudes laid-back charm. In the shade of the trees, vendors hawk art, jewelry, handmade items, ethnic trinkets and African artifacts in the “Watu-Sakoni” People’s Marketplace; food vendors beckon with soul food and eats from around the world; and live music sounds off on the Kumba Stage, with jazz saxophonist Eric Darius and gospel queen Le’Andria Johnson as headliners. Saturday kicks off with the annual Boogaloo Celebration Parade, commencing at 10 a.m. at 22nd Avenue and Downing Street and then heading to the park.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival
Sloan's Lake Park
You’ll find a pan-Asian paradise at the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, where the main event — the races, of course, in which teams of rowers, drummers and flag wavers compete for prizes — provide a thrilling backdrop on Sloan’s Lake for a treasury of dance, music and cultural performances. Experience the best food court ever, redolent with green papaya salads, teriyaki bowls and chocolate-drizzled fried bananas, and an even better marketplace. The culture of Vietnam is in the spotlight in 2019; don’t miss the festival opening ceremony at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday morning. Where to park? Try the $5 Fifth Street Garage on the Auraria campus, where you can catch a free shuttle to the fest.
Colfax ArtFest 2019
40 West Arts District, Lakewood
Lamar Station Plaza, Lakewood
Formerly known as the West Colfax MuralFest, Colfax ArtFest 2019 will still feature murals-in-progress at the Lamar Station on Saturday (as well as trolley tours, a car show, food trucks, live art and vendor booths). But in a bow to Lakewood’s now-thriving 40 West Arts District, Friday night will be given over to the Colfax Art Crawl, a First Friday tradition with gallery receptions and roaming entertainment, followed by a late-night surprise pop-up party at a secret location to be revealed that night. Find out why we awarded 40 West as the top arts district in Westword’s 2019 Best of Denver issue.
Breckenridge Festival of the Arts
Blue River Plaza, Breckenridge
All of Breckenridge comes alive, from woodland pathways to the buzzing Blue River Plaza, during BreckCreate’s Breckenridge Festival of the Arts, a ten-day, eco-themed, multi-arts extravaganza. Encounter musicians playing from the tops of trees, groove to DeVotchKa and DJ Spooky, watch the climbing troupe Bandaloop dance vertically on the sides of cliffs, examine the river in an installation by Giuseppe Licari and Gretchen Marie Schaefer, or partake in any of dozens of arts workshops in all disciplines. And that’s not all: Visit the website for a complete rundown of BIFA attractions and activities.
Boulder International Fringe Festival
Various Boulder locations
Performances $5-$15; some events free
The Boulder Fringe is back for its fourteenth year, slim and trim with a lineup of twenty performances by artists both local and national. Think of it as a Petri dish for performance, a place where creative people try ideas out on audiences who are ready for anything. Along with the performances, which range from completely off-the-wall to mind-bendingly serious, BIFF also hosts opening- and closing-night parties, a late-night cabaret, and other workshops and events designed to make folks mingle. Are you ready to Fringe? Tickets go on sale in June.
Crush Walls 2019
River North Art District
In its tenth year of growth, Crush Walls is a raving success by all standards: From humble beginnings, it now draws hundreds of curious bystanders to RiNo each fall to watch art in action going up on walls and in alleys during one full week of prep and intensive painting. In 2019, Crush will spread out even more, from the east to the west of RiNo, in a celebration of street artists and raw creativity.
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