2018 Summer Fun Guide: Live Your Fest Life

So you’re a wine snob. Or a beer geek. Are you super into SUP? Hot air balloons? Shakespeare? Yoga? Colorado is bursting with summer festivals, from pop music in the mountains to whitewater rafting on the Arkansas to bluegrass in a box canyon. Here’s a look at some of our faves, sure to keep you busy into September. Let’s do this!

telluride-blues-brews-fest

Photo by Jeff Nelson

Wild Blue Yonder
IN SEPTEMBER, TELLURIDE’S BLUES & BREWS FESTIVAL OFFERS THE ULTIMATE VENUE FOR MUSIC AND BEER FANS
By Alison Gwinn

Music is king at this annual festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. When you have a lineup as deep as this one—Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Gov’t Mule, Anders Osborne, Booker T’s Stax Revue—you have every right to call yourself the blues, funk, indie, rock, jam band and soul epicenter of the universe, at least for one weekend of the year.

The fest, which has in past years hosted the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood, Joe Walsh, John Hiatt, George Clinton, Peter Frampton, Melissa Etheridge, B.B. King and The Black Crowes, boasts three stages as well as late-night performances (called Juke Joints) held in local clubs. There’s free yoga taught by instructors from the Telluride Yoga Festival, kids’ activities (a climbing wall, bounce houses, bungee trampolines and parades), as well as hiking, mountain biking and free gondola rides between the town and Mountain Village.

But there’s lots, lots more:
Start the days off right: On Sept. 14–15, visit the Elks Lodge for Blues for Breakfast.
Belly up to the bar: Concurrent with the festival is the Grand Tasting, one of the biggest beer-tasting events in the Southwest. Held Sept. 15 from noon to 3 p.m. in Telluride Town Park, it features 170 beers and ciders from 56 craft breweries.
Camp and listen: Happy campers, you’re in luck: Glamping packages include two VIP three-day passes, heated tents and queen beds. Standard campers will get the chance to see exclusive performances from 4–5 p.m. every day.
Take a run: On Sept. 15, the Blisters & Brews 5K race takes place downtown to raise money for the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program.

TELLURIDE BLUES AND BREWS FESTIVAL
Sept. 14–16 
Tickets: Three-day pass, $200; one-night Juke Joint pass, $30; four-day camping permit, $50

IF ONE IS NOT ENOUGH: 
TELLURIDE, HOME OF THE FESTIVAL, HAS A LINEUP ALL SUMMER LONG

TELLURIDE BALLOON FESTIVAL
June 1–3

Balloons lift off Saturday and Sunday morning at Telluride Town Park and are tethered along Main Street for a Balloon Glow Saturday night.

TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL
June 21–24

For the 45th year, bluegrass players from around the world come to Telluride Town Park to play for four straight days.

TELLURIDE WINE FESTIVAL
June 28–30
Enjoy wine seminars, cocktail mixing classes and cooking demos.

TELLURIDE YOGA FESTIVAL
July 19–22
Bend over backward to make it to this fest, which includes more than 100 events with more than 50 presenters.

TELLURIDE JAZZ FESTIVAL
Aug. 3–5
Jazz artists take over two stages during the day and downtown clubs/theaters at night.

TELLURIDE CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
Aug. 7–12
Since 1973, this fest has been bringing chamber music to the box canyon, encouraging the audience to get up close with the stellar performers.

TELLURIDE MUSHROOM FESTIVAL
Aug. 16–19
Fun with fungi—that’s the point of this o beat festival, which explores edible, toxic and psychoactive ’shrooms.

TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL
Aug. 31–Sept. 3
This is the fest that launched “Juno,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Velvet” and “The Crying Game,” so if you’re a movie nut, it’s a must.

gnarly-tacos

Photo by Jeff Nelson

TOTALLY GNARLY TACOS
Need a quick break from your Telluride fest? Slip away for a stop at TACO DEL GNAR, where you’ll find tasty à la carte street tacos (we love the Korean Short Rib, Tuna Carpaccio and Mahi versions), decadent sides, including a great Queso Blanco, plus Cheese Tots (they’re topped with that queso, pico and chorizo for goodness’ sake) and margaritas bigger than your head. 123 S. Oak St., Telluride (find a second location in Ridgway, and one coming soon in Salida). 

Barbecue! Bourbon! Bacon! Beaujolais!
Can’t decide which eating-and-drinking fest to attend this summer? Let our handy chart be your guide to guring out which of these ve faves will send you (and your stomach) to foodie heaven. —Lesley Kennedy

keystone-bacon-bourbon-fest

Courtesy Keystone Bacon and Bourbon Festival

Keystone Bacon and Bourbon Festival 
June 23–24
Years: 8
Main attraction: Thousands of pounds of bacon and bacon-inspired food.
Attendees: 6,000-plus
What to wear: Mountain casual—be sure to bring a jean jacket or hoodie for when the weather changes or the sun goes down.
Drink this: Bacon bloody marys are our first choice, but Jim Beam bourbon will also be on hand.
Eat this: Three words: Bacon. Eating. Contest.
Non-food/drink musts: Female tribute bands Lez Zeppelin and Hell’s Belles are set to perform. There’s also a kids zone with free and paid activities if you’re bringing the fam.
Instagram op: Three more words: Bacon. Moustache. Selfie.
Cost: $20-$40

Colorado BBQ Challenge, Frisco
June 14–16
Years: 24
Main attraction: 70-plus grill-masters competing in this Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event.
Attendees: 30,000
What to wear: Shorts, T-shirts, comfy shoes and lots of sunscreen.
Drink this: Breckenridge Whiskey (sorry, but the private tour is already sold out) or local craft beers.
Eat this: Pork, ribs, chicken, brisket … So much barbecue. So little time.
Non-food/drink musts: Pig races (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen adorable piglets race for swine glory), the Bacon Burner 6K race, live music and buskers.
Instagram op: A bandana-wearing piggy running around a track? Come on.
Cost: Free entrance; food and drink tickets available for purchase (One ticket equals $1)

crested-butte-food-wine-fest

Photo by Nathan Bilow

Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival
July 25–29 
Years: 8
Main attraction: World-class chefs and wineries offer seminars, pairings and outdoor activities.
Attendees: 2,250
What to wear: Go dressier for tastings and more formal events—sundresses, slacks and a button-down.
Drink this: At the Grand Tasting, choose from more than 500 wines from 25 wineries and distributors.
Eat this: The Winemaker’s Dinner, $750, where Soupçon chef David Wooding teams up with cult wine hero Abe Shoener.
Non-food/drink musts: During pairing adventures, go horseback riding, take a guided garden tour or forage for flowers and plants (with wine and/or food as a reward).
Instagram op: Those famous Crested Butte wild flowers.
Cost: $175 and up

Olathe Sweet Corn Festival 
Aug. 4
Years: 27
Main attraction: All the free Olathe sweet corn (which is seriously the best you will ever eat anywhere) you can eat.
Attendees: 20,000
What to wear: Keep it casual—it’s hot in August and you want to avoid anything you don’t want to stain with dripping butter.
Drink this: Corn!—a light ale from Palisade Brewing made with Olathe sweet corn.
Eat this: Corn. Duh. In fact, the fest will go through about 70,000 ears of the sweet stuff.
Non-food/drink musts: Live music (past acts have included Wynonna Judd and Styx), carnival games, arts and crafts vendors
Instagram op: Boomerang that ear of corn getting dunked in a vat of melted butter.
Cost: Adults, $18; kids ages 3-11, $8

strawberry-days-festival

Courtesy iStock

Glenwood Springs Strawberry Days Festival 
June 15–17
Years: 121
Main attraction: You guessed it—strawberries rule at the oldest continuously held civic celebration west of the Mississippi.
Attendees: 25,000
What to wear: Summer casual—sun hats recommended.
Drink this: Strawberry Daze Ale, specially made for the fest by Glenwood Canyon Brewpub.
Eat this: Get your free strawberries and ice cream after the parade—a century-plus-old tradition.
Non-food/drink musts: A parade, carnival, arts and crafts fair, fashion show, kid games and live music.
Instagram op: Food vendor booths advertising alligator, chicken, fried cheese and shark on a stick, plus deep-fried cookie dough and Snickers.
Cost: Free

Think it’d be awesome to rub elbows with the world’s top chefs at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 15–17? It’ll cost ya: A three-day “consumer pass,” which provides access to cooking demos, wine tastings and the Grand Tasting Pavilion, is $1,700.

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