As part of my job with the Parks and Open Space, I help staff a booth at local festivals around the area. This weekend, Boulder held one if its biggest festivals, the Boulder CreekFest, with hundreds of tents spanning several blocks of Boulder’s main downtown area. Unfortunately, the Weather Gods didn’t get the memo, and both Saturday and Sunday were marred by some tumultuous thunderstorms and rain that moved through the area. It didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of festival-goers though as they continued to filter down the sidewalks, clutching giant barbecued drumsticks, baskets of garlic fries and other types of fast food guaranteed to trigger heart burn.
Memorial Day kicks off the summer festival season, and for the next 3 to 4 months, it seems like there is a festival practically every weekend. Festivals can be a life blood and a huge boon to the economy for small mountain towns, as it brings in lots of tourists as well as revenue from the people who rent out booths for the festivals. For the most part, festivals seem to focus on food and drink, music/arts or an occasionally unique theme. One of the most famous festivals in Colorado is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival which draws people from all over the country. Finding a place to stay in the wealthy enclave of Telluride can be challenging, so many just camp in the town park for the event. Apparently, no one can get enough bluegrass music, because other towns have followed in quick pursuit and begun sponsoring their own festivals, including nearby Lyons, Colorado.
While living in western Colorado, we got a taste of the region’s local food through the Palisade Peach Festival, and the Olathe Corn Festival. Wine and beer festivals also are favorites for the local community, as well as those focusing on Art, such as Breckenridge’s Art Festivals held in July. One of the more unique festivals is held in Colorado Springs, home to the Hot Air Balloon Festival. It must be quite a sight to behold, with so many brightly colored balloons dotting the blue skies.
One of Estes Park’s most famous and most lucrative festivals from a tourist standpoint is its annual Elk Fest held the first weekend of October each year. Because the elk rut is such a big attraction for Rocky Mountain National Park, they don’t have to do much marketing to attract people to the festival. It was a huge loss for the town of Estes Park, when the Great Flood of 2013 wiped out access to the town and essentially cancelled Elk Fest.
My home town of Nederland holds its fair share of festivals as well — Miner’s Days, NedFest and of course, the ever popular Frozen Dead Guy Days each March. But I have a confession to make, one I’m sure a lot of locals share, but don’t necessarily give voice to. I don’t much like festivals, and I rarely attend them. As a resident, I find it annoying to have all the extra traffic, people, and cars parked hither and yon. I’ve become spoiled by the nature of living in a quiet mountain town, and I don’t take too kindly to it being invaded by hordes of rowdy, drunk people, even though I know it’s good for the local economy. When I worked for Rocky Mountain National Park, nothing grated on me more than fighting my way through traffic and crowds trying to go home on a busy summer weekend. What was normally a quickly 10-minute drive turned into a marathon 30-minute plus exercise in patience. I became adept at finding back routes through residential neighborhoods, just to circumvent the festival crowds.
Oh well, the cost of life in the mountains, and just another sign that summer is upon us. For those of you who choose, may you enjoy the festival season.