Big changes are coming to one of Denver's best arts and music festivals and the neighborhood group that founded it.
Roger Armstrong, Capitol Hill United Neighborhood’s executive director for ten years, is stepping down — and last year, CHUN announced it would outsource production of the 2017 Capitol Hill People’s Fair, Denver’s oldest arts and music festival known for highlighting local nonprofits and businesses, to an event-planning company.
"For many years, CHUN has received the bulk of its funding from the annual Capitol Hill People’s Fair,” CHUN president Charles Nusbaum says. “However, in recent years, the proliferation of similar events, combined with a few years of bad weather, lowered the revenues the People’s Fair generated while costs continued to rise.”
Founded in 1969, CHUN will shift its focus from planning the fair to community-engagement work and renting its headquarters, the historic Tears McFarlane House at 1290 Williams Street, to residents and for events. Nusbaum talked to Westword about the group’s future and changes coming to the People’s Fair.
Westword: Who will replace Roger Armstrong as executive director?
Charles Nusbaum: We’re an all-volunteer organization for the time being. Maybe one of our boardmembers will step in as not the executive director, but as an interim managing director, maybe. I think between tonight’s annual meeting and next week’s board meeting, a lot will be determined.
CHUN is outsourcing the production of the People’s Fair for the first time, and to a for-profit company. Does that go against its beginnings?
I think that there was caution in the discussions with Team Player to maintain that community feel and to highlight where possible the businesses and nonprofits in the neighborhood and give them ample opportunity to have a booth or be on display, just as in the past. I think the difference is CHUN was working on sourcing all the sponsors — and taking all the expenses and all the liability. And now Team Player is willing to do that.
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What makes Team Player a good fit for the fair?
[Outgoing executive director Roger Armstrong and Andrea Furness, who left CHUN in August to join Team Player] felt like they were the people who understand People’s Fair the most. Both had worked with Team Player at other festivals, and they felt like it would be the best fit for CHUN.
How will the fair change?
I think they’re tweaking it a bit by bringing in national music acts. There will be certain nonprofit partners, like CHUN, that would help run the booths, similar to what our partners have done in the past when our partners were running it. It’s the CHUN People’s Fair – it’s still going to continue that way and with our name on it. It will just be produced by Team Player.
What role does a neighborhood organization like CHUN play in historic but fast-changing neighborhoods in Denver?
CHUN’s overall mission has been to preserve the past, help shape and deal with the present and plan for the future. We want to maintain the value of our neighborhoods and appreciate the historic structures we have and keep them where possible. We want to advocate for the neighborhoods in dealing with issues of parking and homelessness and density and bridging relationships between residents and businesses.
CHUN is also known as a training ground for up-and-coming local politicians.
We have some boardmembers that have run for council positions, and our current councilmember, Wayne New, has been on our board in the past. I think it’s just natural that people who are inclined to be in start somewhere, and it’s very natural that it would be CHUN.