It’s the question you might ask right before trying something you’ve never tried.

“What if?”

It’s also inspiration behind the name of Saturday’s interactive and wide-ranging festival taking place over six blocks in downtown Colorado Springs.

The What IF ... Festival of Imagination and Innovation , organized by nonprofit Imagination Celebration, returns for its 10th year this weekend, a milestone the nonprofit’s executive director Deborah Thornton calls “unbelievable.”

“Those of us who have been doing this for 10 years are kind of stunned,” Thornton said.

About 15,000 people attended the inaugural event. Attendance has grown to 35,000, says Thornton, who has since adopted the title of “curious choreographer of creativity.”

“We intended to create a day of wows,” she says. “And we created a day of joy.”

The event has grown, Thornton thinks, because there are so many options for festivalgoers. The choose-your-own-adventure day features more than 100 things to do, from live music to dance shows to poetry readings to ninja challenges. You could paint a rock, learn how to compost, cook s’mores with a solar oven or program a robot.

Plus, there will be food vendors and a beer and wine garden. It’s happening on multiple stages spread across the area from Sawatch Street to Nevada Avenue and Colorado Avenue to Vermijo Street, including at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Pikes Peak Center and Sun Plaza Park.

No matter what one person’s interests might be, Thornton hopes they “stretch themselves and try something new.”

“You might come to see a cool robotics team and then have an arts experience or learn about a cool chef or find out about other aspects of the community,” she said.

More than 140 exhibitors are expected to participate Saturday. A festival map is available online.

Thornton hopes all in the crowd of tens of thousands at the What IF festival discover and celebrate their own creativity.

“I’ve had way too many people look at me, cross their arms and take a step back and say, ‘I’m not creative’,” she says. “Everyone is creative in some way and we all express it differently.”

There are also two festivals within the main event, including Everybody Welcome Cultural festival and one hosted by the Southern Colorado Children’s Arts Partnership.

Amanda Hancock

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