Grab your turkey legs: The Taste of Colorado will return to Civic Center Park on Labor Day weekend. This is the thirtieth incarnation of the festival, but the tradition stretches back much, much further. After the Silver Crash of the 1890s, the city introduced the Festival of Mountain and Plain as a major morale-booster. And after the oil bust, the Downtown Denver Partnership resurrected the Festival of Mountain and Plain in 1984, adding a Taste of Colorado component. That inaugural festival lasted three days and featured just thirty or so restaurants, according to marketing director Patty Johnson; this year, there will be more than fifty eateries and food establishments, as well as chef demonstrations.
And that's just the start of the free entertainment at this event, which features six stages (including the Colorado Heritage Stage, presented by Westword). But for many festival fans, the food is the real draw.
In 1988, a fine-dining area was added to the fair; in 1993, a restaurant row was created along Bannock Street. Mustard's Last Stand has been there since the beginning; Rosa Linda's Mexican Cafe, Falafel King and Rocky Mountain Corn signed up a few years in and have returned every year.
"The families have grown up there," says Oscar Aguirre, the oldest child of Virgil and Rosa Linda Aguirre, who in 1985 opened their storefront restaurant at 2005 West 33rd Avenue, long before northwest Denver was a hot, hot dining neighborhood.
Rosa Linda's almost skipped the 2013 Taste of Colorado - but for a very good reason. "My dad is going to be spending his seventieth birthday at the Taste of Colorado," says Oscar, who wanted to pass on the festival this year so that his father could have a proper celebration. "He's the one who overruled me."
So when you stop by the Rosa Linda's booth to grab your shredded-beef burrito, or cactus burrito, or cheese enchilada, make sure you wish Virgil Aguirre a very, very happy birthday. And many happy returns to the Taste of Colorado.
Here's the lineup of the other restaurants you'll find at Taste of Colorado this weekend:
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Amore Gelato, Barbed Wire Reef, Bayou Bob's, Capone's, Cherry Creek Concessions, CiCi's Pizza, Cody Coyote Kettle Corn, Cold Front Ice Cream, Colorado Buffalo Grill, Colorado Corn Company, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Falafel King, Famous Dave's, GiGi's Cupcakes, Graham's Texapino Favorites, Grammy's Goodies, Grillin' Wings & Things, Hard Rock Cafe, Himalayas II, Hot Wok Cafe, Island Noodles, Island Oasis Smoothies, Jamba Juice, Little Brothers Mini Doughnuts, Monster Grill, Moontower Tacos, Mustard's Last Stand, Nut Sensations, Original Berrie Kabobs, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Pete's Greek Town Cafe, Philadelphia Filly, Pop's Rocky Mountain Kettle Corn, Que Bueno! Mexican Grille, Randolph's Restaurant, Repicci's Italian Ice, Rocks Modern Grill, Rocky Mountain Nut Roasters, Rodizio Grill, Roro's Concessions, Saltgrass Steak House, Snow Business, Snowie Colorado, Southern Hospitality, Southwest Kettle Corn, Spice Island Grill, Sweet Lorraine's Catering, The Broker Restaurant, The Goods, The Orange Crunch, Tocabe and Tre Sorella's.