Art News

Fan Farewells From the Final StarFest

StarFest is now Denver history.
StarFest is now Denver history. Teague Bohlen
These were the voyages of the StarFest enterprise and its 45-year mission: to explore strange new worlds of fandom and beam them down to Denver. It may have started with Star Trek, but, oh, the places it went, with comics, sci-fi, horror, model-building and arts, gaming, cosplay and much more. It's been operated by the Walker family, who started it all back in the summer of 1977, when Star Wars was still enjoying its initial legendary run. But the Walkers believe it's time to step off the Mile High stage. So if this isn't the last StarFest, it's at least their last StarFest.

It's the end of an era, and Westword made the trip to wave a fond farewell to one of Denver's first and most beloved fan events. Here are ten out of multitudes of Colorado fans, who will miss all the lovely, fan-made chaotic joy. Cheers, StarFest. Thanks for 45 years of adventure.
click to enlarge Dax the Sad Young Gorn - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Dax the Sad Young Gorn
Teague Bohlen
Since StarFest began with Trek fandom, it makes sense that the goodbyes start there, too. Lynn (left) says they've been attending since middle school — almost twenty years. Essie (right) says there's nothing quite like StarFest, and that it's always felt safe and welcoming. Meanwhile, Dax (below) demonstrates the emotion that everyone was feeling under all that celebration. We're with you, Dax.
click to enlarge Game on! - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Game on!
Teague Bohlen
These role-players in GameFest were trying to figure out whether one of them had bypassed the Armor Class of their foe; they were having too much fun for us to interrupt for long. When asked if they had a message of farewell to StarFest, they just looked chagrined, with one saying, "I don't have the words."
click to enlarge Regis professor and comics creator R. Alan Brooks - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Regis professor and comics creator R. Alan Brooks
Teague Bohlen
We featured R. Alan Brooks's book Anguish Garden on a cover back in 2020  — and its sequel is coming out this summer. "Damn," Brooks said of this last StarFest. "It's a remarkable legacy, being around over four and a half decades. This con is foundational to the geek world in Colorado." The man knows what he's talking about — that's why he teaches at Regis, why he runs a podcast called Mother F**ker in a Cape...and why you should check out all the good stuff he does.
click to enlarge Laura Atkinson, Klingon fan of the United Federation of Planets. - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Laura Atkinson, Klingon fan of the United Federation of Planets.
Teague Bohlen
One of the most unique parts of StarFest is KlingonFest, which celebrates all things Trek, but especially the Klingon traditions — which apparently include pumpkin pie and Hershey's kisses, both available at the refreshment table. Cosplayer Laura Atkinson, who was wearing makeup courtesy of Mythica, just wanted to thank StarFest for the memories. "They didn't just make a convention," she said. "They made a family." Or, as a Klingon might say, "nuqneH, jup ghIlghameS."
click to enlarge Jeremy, aka Perem Thorjey - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Jeremy, aka Perem Thorjey
Teague Bohlen
Star Wars or Trek? That's one of those either-or questions that nerds love to argue among themselves...or alone. Jennifer Marlowe or Bailey Quarters? Batman and Robin, or Batman solo? Marvel or DC? And so goes the list. For Jeremy, the winner is clearly space opera, bounty-hunter style. He's portraying a character of his own creation named Perem Thorjey, and he crafted his Mandalorian armor with 3D printing. Jeremy, that is, not Perem. Perem's story probably has something to do with Beskar. "It's a bummer that this is my first StarFest," Jeremy said, "and it's also the last one." Still, way to go on that armor-building. Celebrating StarFest: This is the Way.
click to enlarge Real talk, science style. - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Real talk, science style.
Teague Bohlen
One of the coolest things about StarFest has been its embrace of real science, which can be just as fascinating as plot lines, characters and conflicts of the fantastic. Two fans standing against the back wall of the science presentation might have decided against a photo, but both were effusive when asked if they wanted to say goodbye to the con. The first was talking about how important the event was for her, before the second jumped in and said, "We really don't want them to beam back up. Stay planet-side, StarFest! Stay planet-side!" To which the first fan deadpanned: "And this is why I don't want to have my picture taken." They both laughed, and the second replied, "Hey, live long and prosper, bitch!" That really ought to be on a T-shirt.
click to enlarge TEAGUE BOHLEN
Teague Bohlen
Avistrum is a Colorado-based group that works hard to keep the love for all things Harry Potter alive and well while offering up some magically awesome events for kids and kids at heart. They make appearances at a number of local cons, StarFest being one of them. Here, a couple of aspiring wizards face off in a duel of wands. "My kids love this stuff," said a parent who wished to remain nameless. "I admire the folks that run this stuff — they take it all as seriously as the kids do, which makes it mean all the more to them. ... Everything here is designed to meet someone on their level, meeting passion with passion. The world needs places like StarFest."
click to enlarge Kirk Brackmann as Indiana Jones (with the Elevator of Eternity). - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Kirk Brackmann as Indiana Jones (with the Elevator of Eternity).
Teague Bohlen
Kirk Brackmann decided to come to his first StarFest when he found out it would also be his last. "There were other things going on this weekend," he said, "but I figured if this was the last one, I couldn't miss it. I'm grateful I made it down here. Everyone's vibe is so warm." Still, we were sort of waiting for him to pick that metal stand up and start busting tiles, looking for hidden catacombs full of gasoline and rats.
click to enlarge Santiago Duarte from Saint One Comics. - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Santiago Duarte from Saint One Comics.
Teague Bohlen
ComicsFest is another popular part of the overall StarFest list of offerings, and Santiago Duarte from Saint One Comics appreciates being a part of it. "Honestly, man, the voyage has been great," he says. "Bring it back is all I can say. Bring it back."
click to enlarge Lara (Rey) and Scott (Han Solo) with their younglings Beckett (Luke) and Quentin (Palpatine) - TEAGUE BOHLEN
Lara (Rey) and Scott (Han Solo) with their younglings Beckett (Luke) and Quentin (Palpatine)
Teague Bohlen
If there's one comment we heard over and over, it's that StarFest has created and supported its fans like a family — and been important to whole families, as well. "We've been coming for years," said mom Lara. "When these two were little. The first time we brought them, they had a life-sized R2D2 roaming around, and it was bigger than they were."

The smiles above tell the real story of StarFest. As stories go, it's been a good one for 45 years, boldly going exactly where fans have wanted to go — and will miss going.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen