It seems much longer than two years ago that I spent a summer listening to live music under the stars, sharing stories around a campfire with strangers, browsing artists’ wares at a park, and sampling fresh honey and deep-fried something at the state fair.
We’ve been through a lot in this pandemic. I’m eager to enjoy all our state has to offer — in the company of loved ones. I know you are, too. Here’s a sampling of some favorite gatherings planned for summer. Keep your face mask handy, my friends, but also circle these dates on your calendar and buy tickets where necessary, because Colorado is back open for fun!
Note: Check for updates on event details ahead of time; all events are subject to change in respect of current health and safety guidelines.
Greeley Blues Jam
June 5. Plan to groove all day in a family-oriented atmosphere with a lineup expected to include Johnny Sansone, Erica Brown & the Cast Iron Queens and King Cake. Sample craft beers and join a whiskey and cigar tasting, pick up some food and browse among vendors. The music festival is endorsed by Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation.
FIBArk Whitewater Festival
June 17-20. People from all over the world come to Salida to kick off the whitewater season at FIBArk, with fun on and off the Arkansas River. Out of concern for community health, this year’s festival will not include a carnival or vendors. But you’ll have a good time, all the same. (In case you were wondering, the name is an abbreviation of the event’s original name, “First in Boating on the Arkansas.”)
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 11-13, 17-20. Plan a relaxing weekend at the foot of the San Juan Mountains grooving to incredible musicians with a few thousand of your newest friends. Entry is capped at 2,500 people per day this year and “festivarians” will be socially distanced in self-selected corrals of 10. There will be limited camping, but grab a spot and, oh, the view! Rollover tickets from 2020 have precedence at this infamous gathering, now in its 47th year.
June 18-19. After being recognized as a commemorative holiday by Denver City Council, Juneteenth is planning hybrid events in Denver this year. The weekend will kick off virtually with a 6-hour broadcast of music, entertainment, panels and more. Then, the Juneteenth R&B Summer Kick Off at Levitt Pavilion will be held the same night. On Saturday, nearly 3,000 people will march in the Juneteenth Parade. After that, there will be a two-day street festival on the Welton Street Corridor. juneteenthmusicfestival.com
Vail Craft Beer Classic
June 25-26. This weekend in the Rockies is way more than a beer festival; it’s a chance to nerd out on all things beer. Compare sips with those around you and quiz the brewers and experts milling around. New this year: Try an extensive selection of craft ciders and seltzers. Buy a ticket for a session or a full day. You’ll select samples and then huddle with your crew to compare notes, distanced from others.
June 26-27. PrideFest is staging its “hub”-based events June 26 and 27 with a mix of small, in-person and virtual programming at venues around the city. Civic Center park won’t see any, but there will be several smaller events — dance parties, drag queen-hosted pool gatherings, family-oriented events at Denver Museum of Nature & Science and “movie-themed activities” with Denver Film’s Sie FilmCenter. denverpride.org
June 24-July 4. Get ready to shake it to 3 Doors Down, TobyMac, Dwight Yoakam, Dylan Scott and Hardy & Lauren Alaina at this year’s Stampede. And if that’s not enough — and why stop there? — catch the rodeo, American bull fighting (no swords!), demolition derby, parade and fireworks, carnival, Western art show and Big Buckle Ball, to name just a few ways to stay busy.
Telluride Yoga Festival
June 24-27. An entire weekend dedicated to yoga, meditation, music and community, set against the backdrop of the stunning San Juan Mountains — could there be anything more appealing? This four-day event will give you a chance to connect with other yogis at more than 100 events.
Colorado Lavender Festival
June 25-27. The folks in Palisade dedicate an entire weekend to celebrating lavender, the purple herb that inspires calm, peaceful feelings with its heavenly aroma. Events include self-guided farm tours, demonstrations, educational seminars and lots of vendors with artisan products at a festival in Riverbend Park. Tickets are required this year.
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
July 9-18. The wildflowers are absolutely beautiful in Crested Butte, which is one reason why there’s an entire festival dedicated to them. This 10-day event, which seeks to preserve and protect wildflowers, features more than 200 workshops, classes, tours and children’s activities. Topics include wildflower photography, gardening, cooking, medicines and sketching, with hikes galore. Register online.
July 23-25. This gem of a gathering in Lyons, known for hosting some of the most talented musicians and entertainers on the planet, is back. But, well, the details were still being worked out at press time. Check the website for schedule, ticket and camping updates.
High Mountain Hay Fever Festival
July 8-11. Bluegrass is hip, and this fest is back for another year of music, workshops, food vendors and camping in the sweet little mountain town of Westcliffe. Confirmed artists for 2021 include Sons and Brothers, Orchard Creek Band and The Blue Canyon Boys. You can still get a four-day pass for $70 (kids 12 and younger, free).
Colorado Black Arts Festival
July 9-11. The 35th annual Colorado Black Arts Festival will take place in-person at City Park this year. Creators aim to explore how the varied arts and cultures of the African Diaspora reflect the promises of the Black communities in Colorado. The three-day festival is free to attend. colbaf.org
Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Art in the Park
July 10 & 11. How about a two-for-one festival special? That’s what you’ll get when you head to Steamboat Springs for a weekend full of hot air balloons and art. After you watch the multi-colored balloons drift overhead in the 40th annual rodeo, skip over to the 46th annual art festival for children’s art activities, food, live entertainment and works from nearly 150 artists. Don’t forget to catch the balloon glow at sundown.
Boulder Creek Festival
July 16-18. Take a mid-summer break and head to Boulder for carnival rides, a fine arts expo, fitness classes, a makers market, live music and community performances. There are tons of activities geared toward kids, so plan a meet-up with your kids’ best buddies.
Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival
July 23 & 24. The 12th annual festival will feature whitewater competitions — including a Build Your Own Boat race — and land-based recreation — including a 27K gravel ride — in and around Cañon City’s Centennial Park. It’s a mix of boats, bands and beer that is not to be missed. Proceeds benefit the town’s whitewater park, river restoration, and community causes.
July 23-25. What started as a small festival with 20 booths in Carbondale in 1971 has ballooned into an impressive three-day event with more than 145 artists and vendors, live music, kids activities and fun contests. Organizers tout it as a “music, art, pie-bakin’, wood-splittin’, fly-castin’, belly-dancin’, fun-lovin’ festival.” What’s not to like?
Vail Dance Festival
July 30-Aug. 9. This two-week festival is the ultimate celebration of dance and artistry. Live performances in the wonderful Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater include solo and group ballet and modern dance. Calvin Royal III is artist-in-residence and BalletX is company-in-residence this summer.
Palisade Peach Festival
Aug. 19-21. If the mere thought of a juicy Palisade peach makes your mouth water, you won’t want to skip the 53rd annual peach festival, which celebrates the delicious fruit in all its glory. You’ll find plenty to do, including peach orchard tours, cooking contests, live music, and more. Stay overnight Saturday and hit the local farmers market Sunday morning for all things fresh.
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Aug. 6-8. Set aside this weekend for a smile-inducing lineup of eclectic music — and we mean that in the best way. Organizers always bring a great mash-up of musicians to Lyons for this gathering. Check the website for updates, as plans were still firming at press time.
Colorado State Fair
Aug. 27-Sept. 6. Go ahead and treat yourself to a funnel cake — we won’t tell anyone. Set aside a day, or two, for carnival rides, competitions, tasty fried foods and live entertainment including shows by Nelly, Jon Pardi and George Thorogood. Oh yeah, and a slew of rodeo events, a demolition derby and a monster truck show.
Manitou Springs Wine Festival
Aug. 28 & 29. Spend an afternoon sipping wines at this annual festival at the foot of Pikes Peak. There’ll be tastings from dozens of wineries, live music, food to munch and vendors dotting beautiful Memorial Park. Ticket price includes a wine tote in addition to your free festival wine glass.
Rocky Mountain Star Stare
Sept. 2-6. This premiere star party, sponsored by the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, features prime dark-sky observing, scientific speakers, kids activities and more — all at 7,600 feet. Camping is available.
Four Corners Folk Festival
Sept. 3-5. This year marks the 25th for this festival, which lures tons of folk artists to Pagosa Springs each year. You can camp under the stars during this music-filled three-day event, grab food from vendors and shop booths featuring handmade items and other merch. “Keep calm and folk on!”
Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Experience
Sept. 3-5. There are some big-name performers coming to Snowmass over Labor Day weekend: Stevie Nicks, Eric Church, Kings of Leon, Maren Morris and special guests (keep checking for names). If that isn’t enough, there’s that spectacular view, too. And tasty food and beverages, of course.
Sept. 4 & 5. Evergreen is planning its 41st annual summer party of jury-selected fine arts and crafts, live music, activities, delicious food and micro brews for sipping.
A Taste of Colorado
Sept. 4-6. The Downtown Denver Partnership promises a long weekend of fun at this year’s festival. Expect three days of free concerts, art displays, crafts and plenty to eat and drink. And there’ll be plenty for the kids, don’t you worry. Check the website all summer for updates.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival
Sept. 4-6. In years past, some 350,000 people gathered at this festival for live music, food and beverages and exhibits from more than 260 juried artists. This year’s event will be held on the creekside area of Cherry Creek Shopping Center to help provide more space. Make sure to check out the ARTivity Avenue for interactive fun.
Labor Day Lift Off
Sept. 4-6. This balloon and fun festival once again will take over Memorial Park near downtown Colorado Springs. Enjoy sunrise lift offs, sunset balloon glows, vendors, live music and even balloon rides. Entry is free.
Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival
Sept. 10-12. Whether you’re Scottish or Irish or both or neither, you’ll have fun at this festival celebrating all things Celtic. In addition to folk concerts and a parade through downtown Estes Park, there’s also Scottish Highland athletics, jousting, pipe band competitions, dog agility and sheep-herding exhibitions and an international tattoo.
Boulder Fall Fest
Sept. 10-12. Close out an incredible summer with a visit to downtown Boulder. There’ll be children’s activities, the Firefly Handmade Market, food, beer and live music.
Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
Sept. 17-19. Another fun way to celebrate the changing of the seasons? This annual celebration of music and libations in Telluride. It’s serious, good fun over three days, with music and tasty beers, yoga mornings and campfire evenings. Watch for updates online as bookings firm up.
Denver Arts Festival
Sept. 18 & 19. The fest is in its 22nd year of supporting the arts. That means you’ll be able to appreciate the work of dozens of local and national artists and enjoy live music in Central Park. Look for a kids art zone, a wine and beer garden, and more.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival
Sept. 25 & 26. This Denver festival has been going strong since 2001. Normally held in July at Sloan’s Lake, and attracting dragon boat teams from across the United States, the event was bumped to summer’s end for health and safety reasons. Come for the racing and stay for the food, art exhibits, dancing, martial arts exhibitions and more.
Note: A handful of events we’d hoped to include on this list are still tentative, as organizers weigh health and safety options. It’s worth checking to see if these activities, which we know to be tons of fun, get the go-ahead.
Bacon and Bourbon Festival
June 26 & 27. What else do you need to know? In fact, in addition to bacon and bourbon expect live music and kids activities.
Keystone Wine and Jazz Festival
July 12-14. You can taste more than 300 wines at this three-day event (key word being taste, because that’s a lot of wine).
Olathe Sweet Corn Festival
Aug. 3. This one-day event usually features tons of family fun. And tons of corn, prepared and served up in all sorts of ways.
Organizers have already postponed some popular events to 2022, including Territory Days in Colorado Springs, Parker Days, the Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco, Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs, the Colorado Brewers’ Festival in Fort Collins, Buffalo Bill Days in Golden, and Boom Days in Leadville. Support these and other small towns when you can this summer. And dream of how much fun is in store next year!
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