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Emma Rautala's "Naamajainen" comes to the Unseen Festival.EXPAND
Emma Rautala's "Naamajainen" comes to the Unseen Festival.
Unseen Festival

The 21 Best Events in Denver, September 16 to September 22

Fall is on its way, but the action is heating up in Colorado this week, with the Chile & Frijoles festival returning to Pueblo. Here in Denver, Startup Week is back, packed with hundreds of free programs, while Doors Open Denver will offer a peek inside of some of the city's most fascinating buildings. Keep reading for more details on these three annual events, as well as almost twenty more worthwhile activities along the Front Range this week.

Monday, September 16

Denver Startup Week is a celebration of everything entrepreneurial in the Mile High City. From its relatively modest beginnings eight years ago, the week has grown into the largest free event of its kind in the world, built by the community, for the community. The 2019 edition boasts over 300 events billed as “100 percent free and 100 percent awesome,” starting with the kickoff celebration at 8 a.m. Monday, September 16, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, and continuing through a final bash on Friday, September 20. In between, learn about everything from finding funding to understanding customers to “testing like a gopher.” See the full schedule (including event locations) and sign up at denverstartupweek.org.

Tuesday, September 17

Re-create the hit ’90s game show Supermarket Sweep for a good cause at the Grocery Cart Race. Barrel through the Safeway at 1677 South Havana Street in Aurora with a few of your friends, toss food and supplies in your cart, then give it all away during the annual fundraiser for the Comitis Crisis Center, Aurora's only homeless shelter. Put on your running shoes: The fun rolls out at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 17, and team registration starts at $250. All proceeds go to the shelter; sign up and get more information at onhavanastreet.com.

Wednesday, September 18

Colorado has had more than a few strong female politicians who've helped set things straight though the decades. With that in mind, History Colorado debuts its Bold Women. Change History. series with a panel of five trailblazing women in Colorado politics: Polly Baca, the first Latina elected to the state Senate; Crisanta Duran, Colorado’s first Latina Speaker of the House; Gail Schoettler, the first woman to serve as state treasurer and lieutenant governor; Lola Spradley, the first woman Speaker of the House; and Brianna Titone, the state's first openly transgender legislator. Catch up on local feminist lore on Wednesday, September 18, starting at 7 p.m. at History Colorado, 1200 Broadway. Get tickets, $5 to $15 (members free), at historycolorado.org.

Supernova, digital animation by Sandrine Deumier.EXPAND
Supernova, digital animation by Sandrine Deumier.
courtesy of Denver Digerati

Thursday, September 19

A one-of-a-kind international showcase, the annual Supernova Digital Animation Festival returns to downtown Denver with new assurance, spreading to a network of jumbo LED screens in the Denver Theatre District as well as to one at the concurrent Momentum Festival in Toledo, Ohio; there will also be satellite locations at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake. In addition to catching single showings, you’ll be able to duck into the district’s Next Stage and Understudy gallery spaces throughout the festival's run to see ongoing video installations. Find a complete programming schedule and map for Supernova, which runs from Thursday, September 19, through Saturday, September 21, at supernovadenver.com; admission is free. And if you can’t make it to the fest or just want continued access to the latest in digital animation, Supernova has launched a new subscription streaming service at supernova.video. Go for it!

And Toto Too, the quirkily named local theater company dedicated to producing plays by women playwrights, is stepping out with the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival smash hit Play On!, a one-woman musical by Denver native Laura Jo Trexler. A theatrical polymath, Trexler also acts and sings in the show, which focuses on some of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable women — from Juliet to Lady Macbeth — and conjures up a very contemporary view of the Shakespearean canon. Play On! opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 19, and continues Thursdays through Saturdays through September 28 at the 1245 Champa Studio, 1245 Champa Street in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Learn more and purchase tickets, $22 to $25, at andtototoo.org.

Bilal is a classically trained crooner whose stunning vocal range begins with a sonorous baritone and ends in an angelic falsetto. Although the Philadelphia-born and New York-based singer emerged during the golden era of "neo soul" alongside such esteemed peers as the Roots, Common and Erykah Badu, Bilal has defied categorization throughout his career, dabbling in R&B, gospel and hip-hop. Despite the critical acclaim garnered by his debut album, 1st Born Second, and its hit single "Soul Sista," Bilal's artistic development was repeatedly thwarted by unwelcome interventions from his record company, which shelved his follow-up LP (later leaked and now regarded as an underground classic), leading to a nine-year hiatus. But now Bilal is back with a vengeance, releasing new albums every two years and appearing on high-profile collaborations with the likes of Dr. Dre, Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar. He'll be at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street, at 8 p.m. Thursday, September 19, and again at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, September 20. Buy tickets, $20 to $40, at dazzledenver.com.

Joanie Wind's “Girls Grow Up Drawing Horses” at the Unseen Festival.EXPAND
Joanie Wind's “Girls Grow Up Drawing Horses” at the Unseen Festival.
Joanie Wind 2019

Friday, September 20

There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight...and all weekend, actually, as the Chile & Frijoles Festival, hosted by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, returns to Pueblo. The annual event features live entertainment, street vendors, cooking competitions, and chiles raw, roasted and cooked into a stew. The hot action runs from three to midnight Friday, September 20, then continues from 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 21, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, September 22. Tickets are $5 per day, or $12 for a package; get them and more information at festival.pueblochamber.org.

Avast, ye! Land-lubbing Denverites can swallow a salty taste of life on the high seas when the Northglenn Pirate Festival pulls up to these landlocked shores for its fifth installment. From 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday, September 20, the aargh-rated entertainment of the Pirates Ball is for adults only. But from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, anyone can join a rowdy crowd filled with swashbucklers of all ages as they party and parlay at the Northglenn Recreation Center and E.B. Rains Jr. Memorial Park, 11701 Community Center Drive in Northglenn. Drink, dine and contend for the title of Pirate King while enjoying Celtic pub music, archery contests and a Cardboard Regatta boat race. And don't worry about having to part with hard-earned booty: Admission is free both days. Visit thepiratefest.com to find out more.

Gird your loins for thrusting groins: The Hump! Film Festival is returning with a weekend of kinky spectacles. Founded in 2005 by nationally syndicated sex-advice columnist and hashtag-happy activist Dan Savage, Hump! is dedicated to showcasing decidedly body-positive and queer-friendly amateur pornography. Willing contestants submit five-minute videos of themselves getting their respective freaks on, and the result is a horny and often hilarious compendium of films with real people of every orientation indulging in every stripe of sexual inclination. The Hump! Film Festival is celebrating its fourteenth anniversary with a nationwide tour that unspools at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday, September 20, and again on Saturday, September 21. Get tickets, $20, at theorientaltheater.com.

Against all odds, the Unseen Festival, a fully loaded, ten-evening slate of experimental film — with literary readings and dance performances thrown in — returns for a third year to Counterpath, the small-press and performance space at 7935 East 14th Avenue. Join Denver’s avant-garde film community — and anyone else looking for something new and different — for nightly themed screenings starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 20, and continuing at the same time through Sunday, September 29. Admission is $10 per evening or $70 for full-festival access; get the lowdown on the films, filmmakers, writers and performers at counterpathpress.org.

Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation is one of MCA Denver's fall shows.
Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation is one of MCA Denver's fall shows.
MCA Denver

As MCA Denver begins to roll out its fall shows, art lovers will get a feel for what the place will be like under Nora Burnett Abrams, who's replaced Adam Lerner after his ten-year run as museum director. Abrams curated two of the three exhibitions — Francesca Woodman: Portrait of a Reputation and Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler: Flora — that open with a glamorous art party on Friday, September 20, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. (VIP preview starts at 6). The third, Stacey Steers: Edge of Alchemy, was curated by Zoe Larkins. The trio of lyrical shows, comprising photos, prints, memorabilia and painstakingly hand-collaged animation, run through April 5 at the MCA, 1485 Delgany Street; opening-night tickets range from $8 to $160 at mcadenver.org.

Pull out your black-tie attire: It's Colorado Symphony Opening Weekend. Under conductor and musical director Brett Mitchell, violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams launches her twentieth season as concertmaster with a bow-bending performance of Felix Mendelssohn's fittingly epic Violin Concerto in E Minor Op. 64, a showcase for both her virtuoso skills and orchestral leadership. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Masquerade, from Grammy-nominated contemporary composer Anna Clyne, round out the show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 20, for a fitting start to another world-class season at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the symphony's home since 1978. The program repeats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 21, and 1 p.m. Sunday, September 22; see the complete season schedule and get tickets, $15 to $89, at coloradosymphony.org.

Life has been far from just "Good Vibrations" for Brian Wilson. Co-founder of the Beach Boys, widely recognized as one of the greatest bands in the history of rock, Wilson channeled his troubled creative genius into some of the most celebrated songs in the history of recorded music. Ending his premature retirement and hitting the road represented a major triumph over his personal demons as well as his contentious relationship with former bandmates, and fans have enjoyed the dividends. Touring these days under the name Brian Wilson & the Zombies, Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin and Wilson himself will land at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, at 8 p.m. Friday, September 20, on the Something Great From ’68 tour, a nostalgic retrospective of Friends and Surf's Up — Wilson's two favorite albums from the Beach Boys catalogue — along with a smattering of deep cuts and big hits. Tickets are $49.95 to $189.50 at altitudetickets.com; learn more at brianwilson.com/tour.

The Catamounts don't fear staging difficult or groundbreaking theater, making Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Everybody, a play with a daring audience-participation element, a fine choice for the company’s season kick-off. The show takes cues from the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman; a cast member chosen by lottery at each performance will take on Everybody's main role, a symbolic everyman searching for salvation and the meaning of life. Everybody runs for fourteen performances, starting Friday, September 20, and continuing through October 12, at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder; a community meal with beer or a cocktail is included on opening and closing nights, as well as on October 5. Find information and tickets, $20 to $45, at thedairy.org.

In the Heights co-creator Quiara Alegría Hudes could have another hit on her hands with Miss You Like Hell, a musical road-trip dramedy with a folk-rock score by musician Erin McKeown. The tale of undocumented mother Beatriz (GerRee Hinshaw) and sixteen-year-old daughter Olivia (Adriane Leigh Robinson) traveling to California with the specter of a border wall looming between them, the show makes its regional premiere starting Friday, September 20, at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, where it runs through October 13. Purchase tickets, $12 to $37, and learn more at aurorafoxartscenter.org.

The 19th century Fitzroy Place/Iliff Mansion in Observatory Park will be open this weekend.
The 19th century Fitzroy Place/Iliff Mansion in Observatory Park will be open this weekend.
Doors Open Denver

Saturday, September 21

Whether Denver will always be the City Beautiful to you, or you fear that it's already become overdeveloped Nu Denver, you'll have your eyes opened at Doors Open Denver, the annual weekend when better buildings all over town are put on view for free, as well as on special ticketed tours. More than fifty sites, some hosting family activities, can be accessed any time from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, and Sunday, September 22; the 59 Insider Tours cost $12 each and require advance registration. This year’s event includes a focus on the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood, where five arts and culture showcases are scheduled around the area. For a strong foundation in this city's architectural virtues, study the Doors Open Denver schedule and map at denverarchitecture.org.

A little bit of India found its way to Boulder five years ago through the Zee Jaipur Literary Festival, an international — and also surprisingly local — showcase of authors, workshops and concerts. This year's two-day fest will again be based at the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder; attend programs starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 21, and 11 a.m. Sunday, September 22, and take an active role in the global discourse during readings and networking sessions with fellow lit lovers. Regular admission is free, or opt for a $30 general registration fee to help fund the event; either way, registration is required at jlflitfest.org/colorado.

Illuminated inspiration floats toward the point where the lake's surface meets the night sky at the Water Lantern Festival. Inspired by the Loi Krathong ceremonies that date back before the nation of Thailand was called Siam, the Water Lantern Festival is a deeply symbolic ritual that touches everyone who participates, regardless of cultural background. The annual event was previously based in Denver, but this year's edition will venture up the Front Range to Boyd Lake State Park, 3720 North County Road 11-C in Loveland. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, so that you can enjoy live music and food-truck cuisine while designing your own glowing showboats for the 8 p.m. launch (all lantern-building materials are biodegradable and eco-friendly). Tickets range from $17 to $40, with a $75 date-night option; go to waterlanternfestival.com to buy yours and learn more.

Artist Arlette Lucero grew up in metro Denver and became entrenched early on in the area’s vibrant Chicano art community. She's seen family dynasties divide and multiply many times over, and has an intimate understanding of who’s been who in the barrios. She dipped into that well of knowledge during her residency at the History Colorado Center, which will culminate with Year of La Chicana, an event celebrating Lucero’s new permanent mural work inside the museum, as well as a community-generated collage of the region’s great Chicana activists. A reception for the unveiling, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, at the center, 1200 Broadway, includes speakers, music, a theater performance and snacks. Admission is free, but an RSVP is required in advance at historycolorado.org

No need to feel guilty about downing a few beers during Oktoberfest season! From 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 21, Givetoberfest 2019 at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora, will abolish any beer shame by offering up the brews for a good cause: Stapleton elementary schools. Germanic drinking gear is encouraged (there will be a costume contest), as is the Chicken Dance (bring the family!); oompah music and the proper chow — brats, spaetzel and warm pretzels — will pay homage to the fest's Germanic origins. Admission ranges from $8 to $35 (the high end comes with a commemorative mug); get tickets at eventbrite.com.

Sunday, September 22

More than 35 visual artists and vendors will congregate at Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, for the Serendipity Music & Arts Festival on Sunday, September 22. Enjoy live painting, beef up your vinyl collection and let out your rage at the ax toss, all while enjoying Denver bands ranging from indie-rock acts Coastal Wives, Redivider and Turvy Organ to pop group OptycNerd and folk outfit Whiskey Autumn. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the show starts at 2; tickets are $12 to $15 and available at globehall.com.

Want to be considered for our 21 Best list? We need information three weeks in advance of the actual event date at editorial@westword.com.

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