So long, summer, and hello to colorful leaves, sweaters, oddly flavored coffee beverages and plenty of things to do. The beloved Haunted Field of Screams returns to scare your pants off, and Biennial of the Americas will take you on a tour of this continent without leaving Denver. All that and much, much more is below!
Monday, September 23
Despite heroic efforts by some of the city's top Japanese restaurants, sake remains one of the more mysterious alcoholic beverages. We're not even sure whether to classify it as a beer or a wine, but we know where to find the finest pours — and some top-notch sake education to go with it. Izakaya Den, at 1487 South Pearl Street, sources rare and delicious brands at its bar on a regular basis, and on Monday, September 23, the younger sibling of the next-door Sushi Den will bring in a stunning range of artisan products from seven sake makers for its Fall Sake Tasting. You can choose a 6 or 7 p.m. start time; passes, which include six tasting tickets, appetizers from chef Toshi Kizaki and a take-home sake cup, are $70 at eventbrite.com.
In 2018, cities across Gaza erupted in what was dubbed “The Great March of Return.” Organizers demanded that Palestinian refugees be allowed to go back to their properties, which had been seized decades before, when the Israeli state was formed. During the conflict, the Israeli army battled with protesters, and a sniper killed Razan al-Najjar, a young Gaza medic who became a symbol of the violence. Empire Films collaborated with Palestinian videographers to tell the story of the demonstrations in the documentary Gaza Fights for Freedom, which will screen at the Esquire Theatre, 500 Downing Street, at 7 p.m. Monday, September 23. Filmmakers Abby Martin and Mike Prysner will present the film. Tickets are $15 at eventbrite.com, $20 at the door.
Tuesday, September 24
Cuban artist Carlos Martiel explores the ethics of how dominant societies have treated ethnic minorities throughout history in South Body, using rituals and ceremonies to examine politically motivated censorship, injustice and how social barriers are established. Martiel will perform the work in advance of the Biennial of the Americas; the free program, presented by K Contemporary, will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 24, at the Sterling Events Space, 1261 Delaware Street. Register for the show and find out more at biennialoftheamericas.org/2019.
Wednesday, September 25
The Biennial of the Americas will return to Denver on Wednesday, September 25, for another round of the pan-American dialogue, art and cultural activities that have marked this event since it debuted ten years ago. This year’s theme, “Empathy in Action," will steer the biennial’s subject matter and art installations through a slate of clinicas, symposiums and exhibitions, including the sharing experience of the Empathy Museum pop-up shoebox at Tail Tracks Plaza on 16th Street between Wynkoop and Wewatta streets, and Sir Richard Branson’s talk on “The Business of Empathy." It all wraps up at 4 p.m. Saturday, September 28, with the free Cósmico Americas community party in Civic Center Park with Jaguara, a spectacular art-car light show and performance stage created by a Colombian collective to spread the word about the plight of the disappearing jaguar and the rainforests it inhabits. Find the full Biennial schedule at biennialoftheamericas.org/2019.
Thursday, September 26
Oink the night away at Porktoberfest, hosted by the pig purveyors at Bacon Social House and Ratio Beerworks on Thursday, September 26. As a whole slow-roasted Berkshire hog spins away, nosh on starters including pumpkin soup shooters and pork terrine, and sip on unlimited brews from Ratio. And while the highlight will be the pork and beer, be sure to save room for dessert. Get piggy wit it starting at 5:30 p.m. at Bacon Social, 2434 West 44th Avenue; tickets are $55 at eventbrite.com, a modest price for a fall feast worthy of a king!
The ascendancy of Toro y Moi may have dovetailed with the rise of chillwave, but the musician born Chazwick Bradley Bundick was always too ambitious to follow music-industry trends. After debuting nearly a decade ago with the sample- and soft beat-driven breakup album Causers of This, Toro y Moi enlisted musicians in a conquest for new sounds, blending elements of boogie, R&B, hip-hop and space disco into personal grooves. Touring in support of his latest album, 2019's Outer Peace, Toro y Moi will bring his hushed but danceable harmonies to the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue, at 8 p.m. Thursday, September 26; visit axs.com for tickets, $29.50 to $33.
Friday, September 27
Take your love of tattoos to new heights at the Colorado Tattoo Convention. From Friday, September 27, through Sunday, September 29, national and local artists will convene at the National Western Complex to talk shop and live-ink during demonstrations starting at noon all three days. The convention will also include a competition for the best tattoo artist, a custom car show, DJs, an art gallery, burlesque and more. One-day tickets are $25, and weekend passes go for $45 at coloradotattooconvention.com.
It’s been two years since New York-based British artist Shantell Martin first wowed Denver by painting a monumental sidewalk mural in front of the Colorado Convention Center. She's returning to the Mile High City, this time to the Denver Art Museum, where she'll bring her trademark black-and-white stream-of-consciousness line drawings indoors for Shantell Martin: Words and Lines, an interactive installation with video animations that sneakily spreads through the Hamilton Building for glimpses in unexpected places. Get to know Martin’s topical doodles up close and personal beginning Friday, September 27, at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. The exhibition, which is included in regular museum admission, runs through January 31; learn more at denverartmuseum.org.
A new farmers' market will showcase a growing side of agriculture. The Grove CBD & Hemp Farmers Market will focus on local hemp and CBD vendors, as well as educate shoppers about new uses for hemp. Learn how CBD is used to treat aches and pains, improve sleep and reduce animal anxiety, as well as how to make your own hemp florals and hemp-based clothing embroidery. And if all that learning makes you hungry, you can try some hemp-based eats while listening to live music from local bands. The market is free to attend and will run from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. (music goes from 6 to 8 p.m.) on Friday, September 27, at Boxyard Park, 2500 Broadway. Learn more at rinoartdistrict.org/visit/events-calendar.
Twenty-five years after Julia Alvarez’s novel In the Time of the Butterflies was published, the fictionalized story of resistance in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo regime remains sharply contemporary in a world still plagued by human-rights violations. That makes it a worthy choice for the NEA’s 2019 Big Read, a national re-evaluation of Alvarez’s tale of the Mirabal sisters, resisters who used the code name Mariposa ("butterfly") before losing their lives to the regime. Lighthouse Writers Workshop is teaming up with Denver Arts & Venues and the Denver Public Library to promote public discussion about the novel during a fall program that commences with the Big Read Kickoff on Friday, September 27, at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street. Join in for a reading and performances from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free; RSVP and learn more about related programming at lighthousewriters.org.
Are Halloween attractions your favorite haunts? You don’t have to wait until the end of October to get spooked. At 6 p.m. Friday, September 27, the Haunted Field of Screams, Colorado’s biggest scream park, will open for the season, with two five-minute escape rooms, carnival games, tarot-card readings and more packed into four indoor/outdoor haunt experiences on a forty-acre corn maze that also holds Maize in the City. That family-friendly attraction opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, September 28, with a twenty-acre Crazed Corn Field Maze, a mini maze, a barrel train ride, a corn launcher, a petting zoo and a giant pumpkin bouncer. Admission to Maize in the City is free (attractions run from free to $20); find out more at maizeinthecity.com. General admission for Haunted Field of Screams is $44.99, with VIP options available; get details at hauntedfieldofscreams.com. Both attractions are located at 10451 McKay Road in Thornton; scream and scream again!
Equinox Theatre closes its eleventh season on a bloody good note with Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a Tony Award winner and sure crowd-pleaser blessed with a score by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. Expect Equinox — a mighty musical machine that leans toward campy and creepy — to do justice to the tale of a vengeful barber and his meat pie-making accomplice, Mrs. Lovett. Sweeney Todd opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 27, at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, and continues through October 26; find details and tickets, $25 to $30, at equinoxtheatredenver.com.
Buntport Theater doesn't produce as many original plays as it once did, perhaps because dipping into the well of singular creativity that drives the company’s shows is so demanding. Fortunately, the troupe's nineteenth season will at least start with fresh material: Universe 92, a delightfully absurd show rooted in real science. The comedy looks in on a trio of animal behaviorists studying a strangely familiar giant rat interested only in consuming. The fifth cast member? It’s a Roomba, so go figure. Universe 92 opens at 8 p.m. Friday, September 27, at Buntport, 717 Lipan Street, and runs through October 19; admission is $25 on opening and closing nights, $15 to $20 on all other dates. See the schedule and save a few bucks on tickets at buntport.com.
Saturday, September 28
Barr Lake State Park will be doing double duty on Saturday, September 28, with a National Public Lands Day volunteer event for nature lovers from 9 a.m. to noon and Bark in the Park, with activities including a pool party, a doggy food truck, pet vendors and adoptable shelter dogs, from 10 a.m. to noon. Whichever path you choose — pulling weeds and gathering trash or romping with Fido — dress accordingly and wear good shoes. Gather at the Barr Lake Nature Center, 13401 Picadilly Road in Brighton; events are free with a park pass. Learn more at friendsofbarrlake.org.
For down-to-earth multicultural immersion, head to the Aurora Cultural Art District’s ImmiFest, a hometown celebration of diversity focusing on immigrant populations settling in the suburb to the east. Get a melting-pot mixture of African, Caribbean, Asian, Hispanic and Latino food, dance, music, art and wares on Saturday, September 28, from noon to 4 p.m. at ACAD’s downtown Aurora headquarters, 1400 Dallas Street in Aurora. Admission is free; get more info at auroraculture.org.
Denver’s 2019 Biennial of the Americas covers a lot of ground in only four days, with myriad workshops, symposia and art installations celebrating the Western Hemisphere. It takes a big splash to top off the intensive event, and Jaguara, a spectacular monumental art car that began life in Black Rock City, Nevada, at the 2018 Burning Man festival, fills the bill. Created by Sonic Design Studio, an international collective based in Colombia, the jaguar-shaped moving stage and light show built upon a 1992 Bluebird school bus was designed to raise awareness of the plight of the disappearing rainforest. Jaguara will serve as the centerpiece of Cósmico Americas, a party with live music (headlined by Colombia’s Systema Solar), ethnic-food trucks and curated cocktails from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 28, in Civic Center Park. Admission is free; learn more and RSVP at biennialoftheamericas.org.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Hemisphere, fabulous wines are being made, making for a glorious focal point at Night in Wakanda, an Africa-centric gala with a 25-wine Grand Tasting hosted by the Wines of South Africa Association as the centerpiece. A few sips of good wine will get you in the mood for catered food, a Wakanda fashion show based on the thirteen tribes in the Black Panther movie, a dance performance by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Academy and an after-party with dessert and dancing. Dress to impress on Saturday, September 28, from 6 p.m. to midnight at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue; find more information and tickets, $65 to $115 ($35 for fashion show and after-party only), at mcnicholsbuilding.com.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Bible, Harry Potter and Green Eggs and Ham may make strange bedfellows, but they all share one dubious honor: Each of these books has been banned at some point in history. To encourage the public to decry censorship and celebrate literary freedom, the Jefferson County Public Library will celebrate Banned Book Week with the free Banned Book Teen Fashion Show: Walk the Runway, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, September 28, at the Belmar Library, 555 South Allison Parkway in Lakewood. Enjoy teen-made fashion inspired by and created from banned books, plus a photo booth, giveaways and readings of censored literature. Get more information at jeffcolibrary.bibliocommons.com.
Sunday, September 29
Free verse and fresh air will fuse at Poets at the Park, a pop-up live recital from some of Denver's finest scribes. Sponsored by local publishers Punch Drunk Press and Suspect Press, the event will showcase a roster of writers sure to set your fingers snapping in approval. Gather with local literati as they seek inspiration from the haunted grounds of Cheesman Park from 3 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 29; admission is free, and you're encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, drinks and snacks. Find out more on the Poets at the Park Denver Facebook event page.
While many Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah at their synagogues, others who don’t have a spiritual home may be wondering what to do to mark the Jewish New Year. A good way in is through Judaism Your Way, which offers a big-tent approach to Jewish holidays. The Denver group will host its annual services starting at 6:30 p.m. on Rosh Hashanah eve (Sunday, September 29) at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street. And on Monday, September 30, Judaism Your Way will hold family services at 8:45 a.m., morning services at 11 and afternoon services at 3:30 p.m., also at the DBG. For more information and to register, go to judaismyourway.org.
The Coldharts, a Brooklyn-based grassroots theater company traveling the nation as the Broken Union Tour, will be stopping off at the Savoy at Curtis Park, 2700 Arapahoe Street, for a one-night-only performance of The Legend of White Woman Creek. Created by company founders Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan, who specialize in musicals with an American Gothic theme, the one-woman folk opera features Hartman as the prairie apparition of a woman who sings to herself, with a baker’s dozen of traditional folk songs that evoke another untamed time and place in American history. Admission to the show, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, September 29, is pay-what-you-can, though a $15 donation is suggested. Learn more and reserve a seat at theartibus.com.
Want to be considered for our 21 Best list? We need information three weeks in advance of the actual event date at email@example.com.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.