A Taste of Colorado has gone through many changes since it was introduced in 1983 as an addendum to the resurrected Festival of Mountain and Plain, which debuted in Denver's Civic Center Park in 1895 and had disappeared by 1912. While the revived Mountain and Plain portion of the Labor Day weekend celebration soon disappeared in a deluge of turkey legs and bad has-been bands, the Taste of Colorado became an annual tradition in Denver, even if mocking it as the "Waste of Colorado" became a tradition, too. But all that changed last year, when the Downtown Denver Partnership decided to give the Taste a facelift, booking far better bands and adding a VIP experience, moves that just earned A Taste of Colorado fourth place in USA Today's contest for the best food festivals in the country. The changes will continue at the 2019 festival, set for August 31 through September 2, with expanded food offerings and more vendors. One thing hasn't changed, though: It's still free to get a Taste.

Best Annual Festival
Brandon Marshall

While both longtime festivals (People's Fair) and newbies (Grandoozy) are taking a break in 2019, Larimer Square's Chalk Art Festival continues to make its mark on Denver. The event that starts on Saturday, June 1, this year will be the seventeenth annual festival, a free, two-day street-painting party during which hundreds of artists turn Larimer Square into an outdoor gallery filled with stunning, if temporary, works of art. Like so many Denver institutions, Larimer Square is examining its options...but no matter what else its future might hold, we're certain it will involve fistfuls of colorful chalk.

Readers' Choice: Underground Music Showcase

Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, longtime booksellers at the Tattered Cover, were on a book-buying trip in Wales in the ’90s when they came upon St. Deiniol's Residential Library. That started their dream of creating a residential library in Colorado, one where they could donate the tens of thousands of books they'd been collecting on the people and land of the West. The result was the Rocky Mountain Land Library, which is creating a home for many of those books at Buffalo Peaks Ranch in Park County. Closer to home, Lee and Martin just opened a branch in Globeville, which is not only stocked with plenty of books, but is also booking author appearances, classes and other special events.

Denver native Kali Fajardo-Anstine grew up in a family of storytellers steeped in Chicano culture, who migrated north from the San Luis Valley. As an adult, she's carrying on that family tradition with her first published collection of short stories, Sabrina & Corina, a spin on how heritage is ingrained in a new generation of Latinas with indigenous roots. Gorgeous storytelling, Fajardo-Anstine's birthright, is what makes her freshman collection so compelling — and an instant classic of multicultural literature.

kalifajardoanstine.com

Denver author Steven Dunn, shortlisted for Granta's Best of Young American Novelists issue, already mined his difficult past growing up in a racially-charged West Virginia town for his first Tarpaulin Sky imprint, Potted Meat, a visceral indie-press winner that's been turned into a film set for release soon. For his second book with Tarpaulin, water & power, Dunn again dips into his personal experience, reporting through diary-style observations on Navy life and the darker underpinnings of its powerful infrastructure. This, too, is being made into a film, by experimental filmmaker Amir George. And Dunn isn't done yet.

tarpaulinsky.com/steven-dunn/water-power

In addition to his own poetry, longtime literary-scene habitué Brice Maiurro is known for his involvement with local small presses and reading series. The founder of Punch Drunk Press and poetry editor at Suspect Press, he now guides a more free-form project: the South Broadway Ghost Society, which blends an online journal (with plans for a print annual later this year) with unconventional readings at multi-disciplinary events that include art exhibits and live music. It's a bold model for things to come: Maiurro says he's committed to a ten-year timeline, and we're looking forward to seeing where it takes him.

soboghoso.org

Founded almost a decade ago, just as storytelling shows were beginning to surge in popularity, the Narrators began as an intimate and ephemeral gathering full of true tales told by local writers, actors, comedians, musicians and other performers. In the years since, two of the long-running show's venues have closed, and the original hosts have been replaced by Ron Doyle and Erin Rollman, but the event's spirit has only grown more fierce with time. Now ensconced at Buntport Theater, The Narrators crew has embarked on a series of ambitious collaborations with such outfits as the Denver Art Museum, High Plains Comedy Festival, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Denver Film Festival. Whether you choose to join the crowd or listen at home, each episode offers a full range of feels.

thenarrators.org

Move over, Kit Carson, Zebulon Pike, William Larimer, John Evans, William Byers, Horace Tabor and all the other men, good and bad, remembered in Colorado history books: It's about time Colorado women were given their due. Last year, History Colorado opened the Center for Colorado Women's History in the Byers-Evans House Museum, and it does much more than name names. The center conducts scholarly research, hosts in-depth exhibits and lectures, offers special tours and, above all, tells the story of how women have contributed to Colorado. Welcome to the club, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, Justina Ford, Florence Sabin, Mistanta, Minnie Reynolds Scalabrino and all the others who've helped shape our state.

Molly Brown House Museum
Molly Brown House Museum

First-time visitors to Denver are often surprised to find that the city isn't actually in the mountains and that cows aren't grazing in the grass. Want to give them another bite of the reality sandwich? Take them to the Molly Brown House Museum. This is actually where Margaret Brown lived at the turn of the last century, after she and her husband, Johnny, made their fortune in Leadville and before she became an international legend for surviving the sinking of the Titanic. By then, though, Margaret had already made a name for herself (never Molly, by the way) in Denver, fighting for the rights of the poor, of children and of women; she even considered a run for Senate. Her home-turned-museum will give your house guests the real story on this local heroine, and also a glimpse into how a dedicated group of residents saved the structure in 1970, going on to create Historic Denver and preserve much more of this city's past.

Readers' Choice: Denver Art Museum

MCA Denver
JC Buck

Many museums exhibit the same work year after year. The first time you visit, the displays are stunning; after that, not so much. At the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, bold exhibits change frequently, showing challenging work of all types. One day you might see tattooed lemons; another, you might be dwarfed by a sculpture made of Slinkys. In addition to the galleries, the museum offers concerts by local and national artists, standup comics serving as docents, and endlessly fascinating lectures, culinary events and more. You can even enter a lottery as part of the museum's Octopus Initiative, an art-lending library, and if you're lucky, take home work by a local artist to keep for a year.

Readers' Choice: Denver Art Museum

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