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The 21 Best Events in Denver, July 15 to July 21EXPAND
National Western Stock Show Volunteer Photographers

The 21 Best Events in Denver, July 15 to July 21

Put your cowboy boots on: The Denver County Fair is back, and it's definitely not your typical county fair. Along with the usual pie-eating contests and chicken judging, you can indulge in a-drag queen pageant, lucha libra matches and a lowrider car show. Slow Food Nations also returns this week, giving food-lovers a look into Colorado's bounty. Keep reading for all the things to do in Denver this week!

Monday, July 15

Whether you’re interested in watching the swearing-in of Denver’s latest batch of candidates — including incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock, new city council members (a few of whom are decidedly anti-Hancock), the auditor and the clerk and recorder — or just interested in swearing at them, head to the Inauguration 2019 ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, July 15, on the steps of the City and County Building. The victors will be celebrated again at a free party at 6 p.m. at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street. Search "2019 Inauguration" at denvergov.org for more information.

Tuesday, July 16

In addition to individual film screenings throughout the year, the Denver Film Society’s CinemaQ Film Festival becomes an entity all its own every summer, with a full week of sneak previews, shorts, documentaries and feature films about gay life. This year’s fest gets started at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, with a fun opening-night nod to both horror films and gay ideals: a sneak preview of Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, which turns the table on horror etiquette as actor Mark Patton reprises his 1985 role as the first-ever male scream queen in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Patton and co-directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen will lead a discussion after the film. CinemaQ screenings run daily through July 21, when Circus of Books, a documentary about L.A.’s LGBTQ bookstore of the same name, closes out the fest; find a complete schedule and ticket links at denverfilm.org.

Wednesday, July 17

Travel back to the halcyon days of early-21st-century indiewood cinema at a screening of Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly’s brooding paean to teen angst, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at the Sie FilmCenter as part of its Sci-Fi Film Series. The story of a young man haunted by a demonic rabbit named Frank — and the creature’s apocalyptic visions, which start coming true — is all about the multiverse and mental illness; the film will be introduced by Metro State University film and media studies professor Vincent Piturro and Denver Museum of Nature & Science space scientist Ka Chun Yu. The Sie is at 2510 East Colfax Avenue; get tickets, $12 to $15, and more information at denverfilm.org.

Thursday, July 18

The local film community landed a big get when the Color of Conversation film festival announced it would come to Denver this year. The five-year-old fest, which will take over the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Illiff Avenue, for three days, will screen some of the best works celebrating African-American films and filmmakers, including the moving Amazing Grace, a documentary that follows Aretha Franklin's gospel album of the same name, rom-coms and a host of shorts. The program will get started with an opening reception at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Newman Center. Stick around for the lectures, delivered by luminaries in the film industry who will touch on major themes presented in the movies. Find more information, including a complete schedule and tickets, at colorofconversation.com.

Embark upon a cerebral expedition filled with lunar learning when the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Science Lounge series returns with Moon Mayhem. Discover the history of NASA's space program, explore a simulated lunar landscape, and build your own moon-bound model rocket with the assistance of expert guides at an evening guaranteed to awaken your stargazing inner child, even if you aged out of the space camp demographic long ago. Take one small step over to the museum, at 2001 Colorado Boulevard, and one giant leap into the nerdy festivities, which also include a screening of CAPCOM GO!, a documentary about the storied 1969 Apollo mission. Moon Mayhem runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 18; visit dmns.org for tickets, $13 to $15, and more information.

Every year, Senior Housing Options offers a special theatrical production at the Barth Hotel, a unique senior housing option at 1510 17th Street. This year's show is Jerry's Girls, the Broadway hit that includes some of Jerry Herman's greatest songs, including tunes from Mame, Hello, Dolly! and La Cage Aux Folles. It opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18, preceded by a special opening-night reception starting at 5 p.m. sponsored by Howl at the Moon (tickets for the evening are $125); the show continues for three weekends through August 3, with tickets at $35. To buy yours and learn more, go to seniorhousingoptions.org.

Although their production schedules are limited to two days, the shorts submitted to the 48 Hour Film Festival live on in perpetuity at the 48 Hour Film Project, a nostalgia-tinged marathon showcasing the efforts of yesteryear. Presented by the Emerging Filmmakers Project — a monthly screening series, discussion and networking hub that's been a fixture of the local arts community since 2002 — the evening fosters a direct and often brutally honest conversation between creator and audience. Mingle with the contestants of festivals past while marveling at what they've produced on one of the tightest deadlines imaginable when the project unspools at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street; admission is $5 at the door. Visit the Emerging Filmmakers Project Facebook page to find out more.

Friday, July 19

The Coachella of cuisine is coming to Colorado. For three days, chefs, food makers and food lovers will descend on Larimer Square and the surrounding downtown streets for Slow Food Nations, which shines a spotlight on Colorado's bounty while giving locals a taste of what the rest of the world is cooking. From Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 21, partake in myriad free and ticketed dinners, demos, lectures, workshops and tastings designed to highlight foods of the world, responsible food production methods and this year's theme: "Where tradition meets innovation." Don't miss the free Taste Marketplace on Saturday and Sunday, where you can sample the goods from more than eighty vendors spread out over four blocks. Visit slowfoodnations.org for schedules, locations and tickets, and hurry — many Slow Food events sell out fast!

Get high on (or in) nature during a weekend-long escape into the mountains with CannaVenture, a group of outdoor and cannabis enthusiasts. On Friday, July 19, the group will meet at a starting point around two and a half hours from Denver, then hike to the camping area, where the real fun begins. Backpackers (21+) must bring their own food, gear and cannabis, but VIP options that include food and transportation to and from Denver are available. The hike will be around three miles each way with your backpack, so dose accordingly. Find out more at cannaventure.org, then request an invite (which includes ticket prices) at cannaventurecrew@gmail.com; the starting location will be provided at registration. Remember: Cannabis consumption is illegal and at your own risk in public areas.

The Denver County Fair isn't your usual county fair.EXPAND
The Denver County Fair isn't your usual county fair.
National Western Stock Show Volunteer Photographers

It’s high summer and time to go back in time at the old-fashioned county fair. But the experience is a bit different at the eclectic Denver County Fair, which continues to woo city folk to the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt Street. As the fair heads into its eighth year of pancake breakfasts, beer tastings, pie-eating contests and chicken judging, don’t expect things to be any less wacky: Alongside the traditional fun, this event still includes a drag queen pageant, lucha libre matches, a lowrider car show and much, much more to satisfy its urban crowd. The fair runs from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, July 19; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 20; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21, with extended hours for carnival rides and games. Find more information and get your general admission tickets ($5 to $10, with various add-ons available) at denvercountyfair.org.

The Pearl Street Arts Fest transforms Boulder's charming, pedestrian-only thoroughfare into an al fresco art gallery that's a movable feast for the eyes. While the 41-year-old festival has become a cherished annual tradition for locals, organizers cast a wide net for this year's jury-selected collection of artists. Hailing from more than twenty states and working in thirteen separate disciplines — including painting, jewelry, sculpture and woodworking — the assembled creators will offer works suitable for every kind of art collector, whether they favor traditional landscapes or unclassifiable modern pieces. Kids needn't miss out on the action; they can create take-home masterpieces of their own at the Open Studios Mobile Art Lab. The festival kicks off with a special preview from 3 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19, then continues from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free; visit boulderdowntown.com/arts-fest for further details.

Saturday, July 20

Like any science museum worth its salt, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has been preparing for the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing for weeks. All that hard work will culminate on Saturday, July 20, with the First Steps Celebration, a family day of commemoration with all sorts of spacey things to do, touch and see in the museum’s Space Odyssey exhibition. The party runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is included in the general museum admission fee of $13.95 to $18.95 — but since it’s also the last day to view the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man in the Phipps IMAX Theater, you might choose to add an IMAX reservation to your ticket. The museum and theater are at 2001 Colorado Boulevard; find more info at dmns.org.

Celebrate Apollo 11’s journey to the moon family-style on the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the silvery orb at Blast Off in the History Park. The all-ages festival of space-travel-inspired hands-on activities and space trivia is being presented by the Golden History Museum at Golden History Park, 1020 11th Street, and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20. Admission is free; learn more at goldenhistory.org.

Have some sauce with the Boss on Saturday, July 20, at Citizens Park (West 22nd Avenue and Benton Street) in Edgewater. A Bruce Springsteen tribute band will be one of many acts taking the stage from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Glory Days Tribute Festival, put on by Blues & BBQ for Better Housing, a nonprofit dedicated to cookouts, music and affordable housing for all. For $10, either at the gate or at bluesnbbq.com, you'll see nine bands covering the best of Springsteen, Bob Seger, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more. Food and beverages are extra, unless you spring for $100 VIP passes, but all proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.

Boulder isn't the only city in Colorado arting up its streets all weekend long. Thanks to weather-related rescheduling, the Aurora Arts Festival is making its slightly delayed annual return on Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21. Organized by the Aurora Cultural Arts District's Arts on the Block program, the festival moves art appreciation off of the canvas — though there will still be plenty of original art for sale — and into the streets for a comprehensive celebration of dance, cuisine, creativity and community. The festivities include dance performances, vendors and food trucks, but the most delightful — and kid-friendly — activity of all might be the chance to dodge and fire foam darts in the Nerf Turf battle zone. The arty party gets started at noon both days and doesn't wind down until 8 p.m. Admission to the festival grounds at Fletcher Plaza, 9898 East Colfax Avenue, is free; find out more at auroraculture.org.

Crafty, outdoorsy denizens can have it all without leaving the city when Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse hosts the double-decked Stay Wild Summer Market and Camp DIY, a combination outdoor-gear expo and craft-workshop extravaganza, on Saturday, July 20. Peruse the sporting goods, enjoy special cocktails and thrill to axe-throwing demos from 2 to 8 p.m. at Ironton, 3636 Chestnut Place. Workshops, brought to you by Modern Which-Craft and Crafted Art Emporium, are scheduled between 2 and 6 p.m. and offer the chance to make your own camp pennant, koozie, dog leash and tag, tiki torch and/or bandanna; fees range from $10 to $20 per class. Register for one or all at modernwhichcraft.com, and learn more at the Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse Facebook page.

If you think an arts festival in a parking lot in the suburban Boulder County bedroom community of Superior will follow the status quo, take a second look. The town’s Main Event: Superior Spectacular banishes the notion with an immersive funhouse of outdoor art installations (including collaborations with the Museum of Outdoor Arts), circus arts with the Salida Circus, spins by DJ K-Nee and live screen-printing by the Silk Screen Machine. But you can also count on standbys like a beer garden and food trucks that make a fest a fest. Immerse yourself on Saturday, July 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Superior Marketplace, Marshall Road and Center Drive. Learn more about the family-friendly free event at the Facebook event page.

The Water Lantern Festival will make for one twinkly evening.EXPAND
The Water Lantern Festival will make for one twinkly evening.
Courtesy of the Water Lantern Festival

Imagine a lake at dusk, covered with a hundred floating lanterns winking across the surface like giant fireflies. It could be a romantic moment or one shared quietly by a family. Whoever you're with, it’s an experience worth having when the Water Lantern Festival stops in Thornton for one twinkly evening. Things light up from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at Carpenter Park, 3498 East 112th Avenue; admission ranges from $12 to $35 with various novelty add-ons available, or opt for the $65 date night package. Learn more and buy tickets at waterlanternfestival.com.

Enjoy sweet sounds under sunny skies on Saturday, July 20, at the second annual Reggae on the Grass, the largest of Levitt Pavilion's free summer concerts. A tribute to the rich and sonorous cultural heritage of Jamaica, the lineup includes dozens of performers, like the delightfully named headliners EarthKry, Mallory "Boom She Boom" Williams and Daddy Screw. Arrive early — doors open at noon — to secure a spot on the sure-to-be crowded lawn at Levitt, 1380 West Florida Avenue, then drop off the youngsters at the Kid Zone, where they can exhaust themselves with fitness-based activities rather than pester your fellow reggae fans. General admission is free, with a VIP option for $30; find tickets and further details at reggaeonthegrass.com.

The Tivoli Club Brass Band will get things going at the Brass Band Extravaganza.EXPAND
The Tivoli Club Brass Band will get things going at the Brass Band Extravaganza.
Courtesy of the Tivoli Club Brass Band

Sunday, July 21

Like your music big and blaring? City Park Jazz, a Park Hill tradition on the shores of Ferril Lake, will have your back with a Brass Band Extravaganza on Sunday, July 21, at the City Park Pavilion, located behind the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard. Bring a picnic and groove to the New Orleans-style Badda Boom Brass Band, the traditional Tivoli Club Brass Band and the modern, funky Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is free; learn more at cityparkjazz.org.

Cosplay and live orchestral music under the stars? There’s nothing better to do on a Sunday night in July, especially when you’re being swept away into comic culture by none other than the Colorado Symphony. The evening of music from movie and video game scores is pure fun, and costumes are encouraged, Iron Men and Wonder Women. How many Captain Marvels and Jean Greys will show up? Be there and see: The Symphonic Tribute to Comic Con begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada. Tickets start at $20 for lawn seating and range from $35 to $50 for covered seating; find more details at arvadacenter.org.

Know of an event that belongs on this list? We need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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