The holidays might be over, but there are still plenty of things to do in Denver. From cheering on the Nuggets to the National Western Stock Show to loads of great art events, keep reading for the 21 best events in Denver the first week in January.
Tuesday, January 3
Take a quick trip to the wide open spaces during New Visions: Contemporary Photography of the American West, a lunch/lecture program at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 3, at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway. Megan K. Friedel, curator of photography at History Colorado, will moderate a panel of photographers highlighted in the Coors Western Art Exhibit, including Maeve Eichelberger, Lois Conner and Barbara Van Cleve. “The photography is absolutely phenomenal,” says Rose Fredrick, who again curated the annual exhibit at the National Western Stock Show. “It’s exciting, it’s pushing boundaries, it’s not what you typically see.” A $45 ticket gets you a buffet lunch and plenty of food for thought; buy yours at coorswesternart.com.
Clad in shiny new jerseys that hark back to the team’s retro heyday, the Nuggets may currently be saddled with an 11-16 record, but at least they’re making the struggle look good. Fortunately, when they square off against Western Conference rivals the Sacramento Kings at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 3, they’ll do so from the comfort of their home turf at the Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Circle. While the Nuggets and the Kings are behind in their respective divisions, both are in the midst of reinvention, combining youthful rosters with exciting draft picks. Admission prices vary. To learn more and buy tickets, visit pepsicenter.ticketoffices.com.
All aboard! Through Tuesday, January 3, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is offering a holiday-themed train ride that’s become a seasonal mainstay for families nationwide. Based on the 1985 book by Chris Van Allsburg and the 2004 animated film, the Polar Express Train Ride is one of the D&SNGR’s biggest events of the year, bringing to life the timeless tale of a child’s journey to the North Pole aboard a historic steam locomotive. During an hour-long ride, passengers sip hot chocolate and interact with characters from the book — all while heading toward the North Pole to pick up the big man himself! For details on rides, visit durangosilvertonrailroad.com.
Wednesday, January 4
Since the opening of the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C., more than 100,000 people have passed by the statue of ex-slave Clara Brown, who started out doing laundry in the boomtown of Central City, became a successful businesswoman and used her money to help others. Now she’s the subject of an award-winning new documentary, Clara, Angel of the Rockies, showing on Colorado Public Television at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, and on Rocky Mountain PBS on January 5. “My personal hope is that each person who sees this is inspired by the amazing story of Clara Brown and how she was open to people of a wide variety of colors and religions,” says filmmaker Patricia McInroy, who teaches at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. “It would be wonderful to see us all carry those ideals forward somehow.”
Skank your way into 2017 with a nostalgia-fueled evening of crunchy guitars and brassy horns. The Ogden Theatre welcomes dual headliners — ska practitioners Reel Big Fish and punk pioneers Anti-Flag — with openers Ballyhoo! and Direct Hit getting the party started. The sixteen-and-over show starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, at the Ogden, 935 East Colfax Avenue, and is sure to get your checkered Vans a-wiggling. Visit ogdentheatre.com to learn more and buy tickets, which start at $27.
Action! On Wednesday, January 4, the Denver Art Museum will host the eleventh annual Petrie Institute of Western American Art Symposium: Set in the West: Telling Tales in Art and Film. The symposium runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and covers a lot of territory — from film technology and works of art to famous Western films and their makers. Not only will it get you ready for the National Western Stock Show, which starts January 7, but also for The Western: An Epic in Art and Film, a DAM exhibit that opens May 21. Registration is $55 for museum members, $65 for non-members; to purchase tickets, go to denverartmuseum.org.
Ever tried Thai-style ice cream? You've got your chance starting Wednesday, January 4, when local confectionery Chaos & Cream sets up shop in the Source that evening. Made fresh, scraped into tasty little rolls and sprinkled with toppings, these cups are dependable street food in Thailand and are starting to gain a foothold in the U.S. You can get your hands on them today and every Wednesday in January from 5 to 9 p.m. Stop by during happy hour, 5 to 6 p.m., and get two for the price of one. Visit chaosandcream.com for more information.
Thursday, January 5
The new year is off to a smart start in Denver, which is hosting the American Historical Association’s annual convention. Although much of the program — a mix of movies, business meetings and discussions — is for members only, the plenary session, at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 5, at the Sheraton Denver Downtown, is free and open to the public...and the public should definitely care what these august academics have to say on the topic of “The First Hundred Days: Priorities for a New U.S. President.” To find out more, visit historians.org/annualmeeting.
The National Western Stock Show doesn’t kick off until Saturday, January 7, but the city will be getting all gussied up on Thursday, January 5, for Dress Western Day. Though the annual Stock Show parade has been cancelled due to weather, the barbecue lunch will forge on. Sponsored by Colorado State University, the lunch will be on Thursday, January 5, in the atrium of the Wells Fargo Building at 17th and Broadway; tickets are $10 and benefit the 4-H International Youth Group. For more information, call 303-297-1166 or visit nationalwestern.com.
Leon Gallery, 1112 East 17th Avenue, starts 2017 with a couple of goodbyes at a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, January 5. The event will mark the close of a showstopping exhibit — The Deep End: Jonathan Saiz — and the end of a Leon era, as gallery co-founder and guiding light (and Westword MasterMind) Eric Dallimore is moving on to new endeavors. But don’t worry: The independent space in Uptown isn’t going anywhere; Dallimore is leaving it in the capable hands of Eric Nord and Allison Bartholomew. And this public farewell party will have more than drinks and good cheer for wishing Dallimore well: Saiz also brought a new batch of fifty tiny eye paintings (encased in plastic boxes and available for $20 each) into the gallery in advance of the show’s close on January 7. (Needless to say, the original works were snapped up quickly.) Visit Leon Gallery’s Facebook page for details.
At a book signing on Thursday, January 5, Emily K. Hobson, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada in Reno, and Robyn C. Spencer, an associate professor at City University of New York, will address social-justice history and the convergence of identity and revolutionary politics. Hobson wrote Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left, a book about how queer activism overlapped with anti-war, anti-racist and anti-imperialist politics from the 1960s on. Spencer’s The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender and the Black Panther Party in Oakland argues that the Panthers’ platform was not the product of its leadership, but instead built from the grassroots up and shaped by international activists and organizers who represented a variety of races. The free event starts at 7 p.m. at the LoDo Tattered Cover, 1628 16th Street. For more information, visit tatteredcover.com.
This year's first big beer festival is the Big Beer Festival, which will be at Beaver Run in Breckenridge starting Thursday, January 5. It's a weekend devoted to bold, brash and, well, big flavors from local and national brewers. The festival opens with the Calibration Dinner, a collaboration between chefs and brewmasters to create the perfect food and beer pairings in a multi-course dinner. Tickets are sold out, but you can contact the festival to be put on the waitlist; other event tickets run from $75 to $15. Check out the Big Beer Festival site for more information.
Friday, January 6
Custody battles over children are hard enough. Add parents who take children outside of the country illegally, and convoluted international law kicks in, creating a situation that could take years to untangle. In an effort to bring attention to the issue of international child abduction, artist Tony Diego has organized Regresarás (You Will Return), an exhibition of paintings, mixed-media works and sculptures by Izzy Lozano, Paloma Lozano, Josiah Lopez, Christine O’Dea, Alicia Cardenas, Justin Maes, Azul Olsen and Sheila Olsen. The show, which also includes works by Diego, opens with a reception from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, January 6, at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, 772 Santa Fe Drive, and runs through January 28. For more information, visit chacweb.org.
Adapted from Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, one of the great classics, the Tony Award-winning musical Man of La Mancha updates the venerable tale of a mad Spanish knight’s quixotic quests with ’60s-era musical panache. Boasting classic showstopping tunes such as “Dulcinea” and “The Impossible Dream,” the Performance Now Theatre Company’s presentation of Man of La Mancha is a toe-tapping, windmill-tilting good time. The show runs from Friday, January 6, through Sunday, January 22, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway in Lakewood. Find tickets, starting at $20, and information at performancenow.org.
Keep reading for the 21 best events in Denver.
Denver artist Thomas Scharfenberg finds inspiration in things most people pass by without much thought, like industrial tracts, warehouses, refineries, railroad tracks, telephone poles and anything else he can see from his bicycle seat as he rides through the underbelly of the inner city. For the photographic series Sky Diamonds, which opens with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, January 6, at Lowbrow, 38 Broadway, Scharfenberg used smartphone apps to alter images into kaleidoscopic diamond shapes that document the coexistence of nature and the man-made in unexpected places. Deliberately affordable at $10 to $30 each, the works double as a political statement. “I feel the current art-pricing system is as skewed, flawed and distasteful as the pricing for health care and housing,” Scharfenberg explains. Take home some Sky Diamonds of your own; the show runs through January 31. Go to the Facebook event page for more information.
Saturday, January 7
Calling all home canners, picklers, bakers, cooks and gardeners: Mile High Swappers is rounding up your creations for another of its regularly held food swaps. Bring your homemade or homegrown products to Huckleberry Roasters, 4301 Pecos Street, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 7, and trade with fellow food makers. The event is free, but organizers ask that you register in advance at milehighswappers.com. Space is limited to thirty participants, so if you miss this one, check the website — where you can also read up on the basics of swapping etiquette — for upcoming gatherings. The swap generally runs for two hours to give participants a chance to bid, haggle and trade — but remember: No cash transactions. And just in case you thought there might be something, um, extracurricular going on here, Mile High Swappers says it “has nothing to do with trading spouses on an airplane.”
Although it started in New York City, 50 First Jokes, during which comedians share their first jokes of the new year, was swiftly embraced by the local comedy community when it came to the Mile High City three years ago. The practice dates back to 2007, when a boozy throng of New York standups convened in a Lower East Side bar to debut their newest jokes; hosts Timmi Lasley and Mara Wiles will carry it on locally at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, on Saturday, January 7 — which, according to tradition, is the first day the jokes can be told (they also have to be written after the ball drops). Denver audiences are guaranteed fresh material from a cavalcade of the city’s finest and funniest. The show starts at 8 p.m.; get tickets, $10, at nightout.com.
Marijuana sales hit $1 billion this year, and on Saturday, January 7, MIPR Holdings, a marijuana consulting and investor-relations company, will show you how to get a piece of the pie at a workshop about investing in cannabis companies. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn & Suites at 24192 East Prospect Avenue in Aurora, you’ll learn all the basics, from opening a brokerage account to buying and selling cannabis stocks. You must be eighteen and older to attend, and free parking is available on the premises. Admission is $129; you can also live-stream the event for $79. Learn more on the event’s Facebook page.
Sunday, January 8
Charlie Chaplin, best known as the “Little Tramp” with the Hitler-style mustache, cringed at the rising tide of global fascism. But instead of just wringing his hands, he used humor as a weapon to attack one of history’s worst characters in his film The Great Dictator, in which the comedic genius portrays both a Jewish barber and Hitler himself. Unlike most of Chaplin’s movies, The Great Dictator is a talkie. The Sie FilmCenter will present the 1940s masterpiece along with news headlines, music, serial shorts, cartoons and advertisements from 1946, giving viewers a rare chance to reflect on the film’s historical context. The screening is at 1 p.m. on Sunday, January 8, at the Sie, 2510 East Colfax Avenue; tickets — $7 for Denver Film Society members, $11 for non-members — can be purchased at denverfilm.org.
For her fans, peers and loved ones, the loss of local comedian and activist Jordan Wieleba was a heartbreaking low point in a year already overburdened with grief. To honor her memory and provide an evening of levity we so sorely need, Chicky Go Peep Productions has lined up Nasty Women — A Celebration of Authenticity and Resistance, a crackerjack showcase of comedy and burlesque with performers including Dr. Bones, Mr. Valdez, Ariella May Dewitt, Cherry Pop Pop Poppins, Tatianna Tata and more on Sunday, January 8, at the Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe Street. The event is a benefit for the Center, a local advocacy program that provides vital programs and resources for the trans community Wieleba so boldly championed. With election results that cast serious doubts on the future of equality, the Center’s mission and Wieleba’s legacy matter now more than ever. The 18+ show starts at 8, and admission is $15. Visit clocktowercabaret.com or call 303-293-0075 for tickets and information.
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Monday, January 9
Troy Walker is a man of many talents. The comic absolutely destroyed his late-night television debut on The Late Late Show in 2015, and recently signed on to the prestigious Gersh Agency. Despite his promising Hollywood future, Walker is an avowed Denver fan: He got his start at the downtown Comedy Works, at 1226 15th Street, and earned a law degree at the University of Denver. The two-time winner of the Comedy Works New Faces Contest will return to the stage where he honed his craft at 8 p.m. on Monday, January 9. Get tickets for the 21+ show, $12, at comedyworks.com or 303-595-3637.