Best New Festival 2019 | Temple Tantrum | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Denver has a host of overblown festivals offering big bands, good food and plenty of shopportunities. But Temple Tantrum, a block party that debuted over last Labor Day weekend outside the Temple art space at 24th and Curtis streets, offered the city something different: an experimental, immersive art, music and comics festival that brought together the best of Denver's DIY creative scene. Organized by Temple ringleader Lewis Neeff, with funding from community donations and Meow Wolf, the inaugural event was headlined by Pictureplane and Plantrae. A 2019 reboot has yet to be announced; if this festival doesn't reappear, we'll pitch an unholy tantrum.

Readers' Choice: Great Mexican Beer Fiesta

Every fall, the Westwood Chile Fest transforms Morrison Road, the busy thoroughfare that cuts diagonally through southwest Denver, into a street festival celebrating the cuisine, culture and citizens of this community. Put on by neighborhood-centered nonprofit BuCu West, the fest is a hyper-local showcase of the best in the 'hood, presenting performances by Aztec, Vietnamese and indigenous American dancers as well as local rock and hip-hop acts. Dozens of local artists showcase their work alongside booths of fresh produce grown locally through the Re:Vision co-op and artisanal goods made at the Kitchen Network, Morrison Road's commissary kitchen and small-business incubator. But the highlight of the day comes when the fest really turns up the heat, as brave challengers attempt to down the hottest chiles they can handle, from jalapeños to ghost peppers.

Only in Coolorado. Every March, the mountain town of Nederland celebrates its most notorious, and definitely dead, resident: Bredo Morstol, who's been frozen in a state of suspended animation in a Tuff Shed high above the town for more than two decades. To honor this icy immigrant, thousands of revelers gather at what's billed as the state's "most frigidly fun festival" for three days of live bands, coffin races, polar plunging, ice turkey bowling, hearse parades, plenty of antifreeze (alcohol) and lots of international attention. Sadly, the 2019 festival might have been the last: Organizer and owner Amanda MacDonald says she's ready for a break. No word from Grandpa Bredo, though.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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