Best Look at a Historic Institution 2017 | Denver's Lakeside Amusement Park: From the White City Beautiful to a Century of Fun, by David Forsyth | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Lakeside Amusement Park's storied past never fails to amuse its faithful fans. A true place of mystery on the northwest edge of town, Lakeside has always played second banana to the tonier Elitch Gardens (inasmuch as an amusement park can be tony), but that's what makes it so charming: It's a place stuck in time, a neon anachronism that's slowly crumbling (physically, even, after a car recently crashed into a parking structure next to the welcoming Lakeside tower). Author David Forsyth endeavored to put that charm and mystery into words by digging deep into the park's history for Denver's Lakeside Amusement Park ($34.95, University Press of Colorado), a fun read that uncovers Lakeside's untold stories.

Those who were teenagers in the '80s and '90s may remember collecting funny and edgy print publications like Adbusters and MAD magazine and plastering your bedroom walls with torn-out photographs from their pages. Denver's Birdy aims to re-create that culture with original, often humorous art pieces printed on high-quality matte paper. Even the advertisements are custom-created by artists known to Birdy editors Jonny DeStefano and Christy Thacker. Since launching in 2014, the free monthly publication — distributed in such trendy spots as Twist & Shout and Pablo's Coffee — has developed a cult following. It's even become a favorite of DEVO's Mark Mothersbaugh, who has contributed his own art pieces, as well as a platform for writers of both fiction and creative nonfiction. Each issue is numbered and meant to be collected; be sure to grab a copy as soon as you see one at the beginning of each month; they disappear quickly.

Denver has more than its fair share of engrossing storytelling events, including the Narrators at Buntport Theater and StorySLAM competitions hosted by the Moth. Amber Blais wanted to create something different, and she's succeeded with Raconteur Denver, held every two months in a different location around the Mile High City, including bars and art galleries. While these nights start out, as the others do, with a pre-selected list of storytellers, the spotlight is then ceded to audience members.The idea is that one story often inspires another, and so people who might not have thought of a particular experience to share may hear something that reminds them of a relevant story. Raconteur Denver also records the evenings and reproduces them as a podcast, but they're more fun in person. Consider that upcoming themes this year include "Spectacular Failures," "Tales of the Tour," "Pets" and "Lost and(or) Found."

BreckCreate aims a little higher than the usual mountain-town arts organization, taking simple "festivals" to new levels. WAVE, an early-season spectacle inspired by Scottsdale's Canal Convergence that debuted in Breckenridge last summer, spread interactive artworks and music throughout the town, inviting tourists and townies alike to experience a big-city art experience at a higher elevation. WAVE will return this year on June 1, bringing another round of exciting water projections and adventures in light and sound to Breckenridge as it gears back up for the summer season.

Readers' Choice: Punching Mule Music Festival

Suzi Q Smith is a slam poet, spoken-word artist, teacher, activist, author and performer, and her fierceness with words is matched only by her drive to bring the world of slam poetry to Denver. The founding slam master of Denver's own Slam Nuba team and executive director of Poetry Slam Inc., she's won national championships herself, and thanks to her efforts, the 2017 National Poetry Slam will be held in various venues throughout Five Points this summer, bringing poets from across the country to the Mile High City. Thanks to the work and wisdom of artists like Smith, Denver has secured its place as a proud and supportive hub for a long-overlooked but deserving arts and culture community.

Lindsey Bartlett

Do you love the smell of aerosol in the morning? Do you realize that street art is so much more than graffiti? Then you'll have a crush on Crush. Now heading into its seventh year, the festival welcomes over eighty local, national and international street artists who paint walls in RiNo spanning the ten blocks from 2500 Larimer Street up to 35th Street and sometimes beyond — all with the property owners' blessing. Crush founder Robin Munro has been working hard to push the RiNo Art District as a leader in the urban arts scene — not just in this state, but in the country — and many street-art legends have made their mark at Crush, including Tats Cru, Woes, David Shillinglaw, Lauren YS, Max Sansing, Dulk 1, Blaine Fontana, Birdcap, Scribe, Jose Mertz, Sense, Rodwasworld, Elle Street Art, Shalak Attack and Bruno. Crush usually crushes it for two weekends in September; watch for an announcement of Crush 2017 dates.

Readers' Choice: Great American Beer Festival

After pop-culture dreamer Charlie La Greca parted ways with Denver Comic Con, which he co-founded, he turned his sights on something more community-oriented and artist-friendly — a more manageable, true-hearted comic con that allowed fans to get face-to-face with comic creators. The Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo might not break attendance records or send cosplayers in droves out into the streets of downtown Denver, but its first installment last spring at the Sherman Street Event Center was a small miracle. This year's followup will take over the McNichols Building, with special guests the Hernandez Brothers of Love and Rockets fame, Kitchen Sink Press founder and underground comic artist Denis Kitchen, Denver expat Noah Van Sciver and dozens of other independent comic artists from near and far, as well as a fresh trove of comix, small-press publications and zines.

Being a comic artist can be a lonely life, but in Denver, those artists like to stick together. The Blacktail Collective gathers occasionally for multimedia public readings and road trips, spreading the joy of independent comics originating in the active Rocky Mountain region. Members include Westword cartoonist Karl Christian Krumpholz, Alan Brooks, Alex Graham, Jake Fairly, Ted Intorcio, Dan Landes, Kevin Caron and spokesman Lonnie MF Allen, who says Blacktail is taking a quick break while the collective prepares for the 2017 Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo. Find the group's schedule on its Facebook page.

Denver's art scene has come a long way in a handful of decades, with a rooted group of homegrown talent now being joined by out-of-state creative types. Tilt West wants not just to document that growth, but to discuss it — taking a critical look at the arts and their role in this city. Headed by a small group of artists and art-world operators, Tilt West encourages elevated discourse through curated conversations among artists, teachers, gallerists, architects and writers. The unmoderated, unadvertised setting creates a level playing field where all voices can discuss topics like "Regional History & Potential" and "Technology & the Body." The salons are recorded, and the audio is archived online for public access; Tilt West is also working on a publishing platform, in hopes of taking the conversation about art in Colorado to a wider audience in the near future.

Arts Street works with Colorado kids, offering real-world experiences to help students move toward careers in the creative industries. The nonprofit program works primarily with inner-city youth and young people who struggle in traditional schools; it has a wide understanding of what art can be and do, and offers lessons in visual arts, music, theater, dance, video and web skills. By teaching these skills, the organization hopes to empower kids to take a creative approach to growth.

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