May 24-26, La Foret Conference & Retreat Center, Black Forest
For more than a decade, a homegrown music festival has been kicking off summer with a host of bandsin an otherwise quiet corner of Black Forest, just north of Colorado Springs.
The family-friendly MeadowGrass Music Festival returns to La Foret Conference & Retreat Center this Memorial Day weekend. This year’s lineup features folk, rock, Americana, indie and rootsbands such as The Ballroom Thieves, Tea Leaf Green, Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express, Reckless Kelly, Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival, Patrick Dethlefs, Whiskey Kate, Meadow Mountain and Colorado Springs’ own Woodshed Red and Roma Ransom.
“We started as a collaboration between a lot of organizations in town — specifically La Foret — wanting to get people out. Rocky Mountain Highway Music Collaborative wanted to be able to provide a way for local musicians to get seen,” said Michele Mukatis, last year’s festival director. ”We try to include local, regional and international bands. It helps to cross-pollinate. We have a good mix of genres.”
The festival includes a Friday nightbeer tastinghosted by All Colorado Beer Festival, music workshops, yoga, activities for kids, vendors and on-site camping. Tickets are on sale now ($47.99-$267.99); meadowgrass.org. Kids 12 and younger get in freewith a paid adult.
Colorado Shakespeare Festival
June 7-Aug. 10, Boulder
See the Bard’s classic works performed by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival professional theater company under the stars at this annual rite of summer held on the University of Colorado campus. It’s recognized as one of the nation’s oldest Shakespeare festivals.
This will be the festival’s 62nd year, with performances of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” “As You Like It” and “Romeo and Juliet” offered in June, July and August.
“Twelfth Night” is a comedy that centers on how love is blind, said CSF producing artistic director Timothy Orr in a news release. It will feature original live music from composer Rinde Eckert. The tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” is “a play about falling in love with someone who your tribe tells you is the wrong person. And you don’t get a choice or a say in that conversation,” Orr said. “As You Like It” is a comedy that follows a woman fleeing political persecution.
There is also full production of “King Charles III: A Future History Play” by Mike Bartlett, which envisions “a near future where personal privacy, public betrayals and a threat to free press collide in the days following the death of Queen Elizabeth II,” plus a one-night only “Original Practices” production of Shakespeare’s history “King John.”
Plays are performed in the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre and the indoor University Theatre. Tickets start at $18; season ticket options start at $28. cupresents.org
Colorado Renaissance Festival
June 15-Aug. 4, Larkspur
Grab your velvet gown or jaunty knickers, brave the Larkspur traffic jam on Interstate 25 and get thee to the Ren Fest. The eight-weekend, rain-or-shine celebration has all the 16th-century trimmings — a royal court, turkey legs, costumed merrymakers and seven stages of performers.
”People come out, and they don’t know what to expect,” said Marketing Director Jim Paradise Jr. in a previous interview with The Gazette. “When they experience the unexpected, it’s so amazing that it brings them back.”
The fair, now in its 43rd year, averages 200,000 visitors over 16 days. Costumes are encouraged and are available to rent. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Themed weekends ensure that repeat visits offer different experiences. Parking is free.coloradorenaissance.com
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 20-23, Town Park, Telluride
Guitar-pickin’ music and the beauty of the San Juan Mountains draw more than 11,000 “Festivarians” yearly to the historic southwestern Colorado mining town of Telluride. The festival is held the weekend closest to the summer solstice in June andfeatures veteran and newbie folk and bluegrass acts.
Music occupies the main stage during the day, workshops are held in town, late-night concerts are held at indoor venues and jam sessions pop up throughout the night in nearby condos and campgrounds.
This year’s lineup: Chris Thile, Gregory Alan Isakov, Lake Street Dive, Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, Wood Belly, Railroad Earth, Sierra Hull, Yonder Mountain String Band, Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, Punch Brothers and Steve Poltz.
While multi-day passes have sold out for the 46th Telluride Bluegrass Festival, general admission ($90) for Thursday, June 20, is still available as of this writing; bluegrass.com. No pets allowed.
Donkey Derby Days
June 22-23, Cripple Creek
The festival celebrates Cripple Creek’s wild donkey population, believed to be direct descendants of the beasts of burden from the mining town’s heyday during its Gold Rush days around the turn of the 20th century.
Every year, participants run a half-mile race with the donkeys by their side, completing various tasks and overcoming obstacles. Sometimes the pack animals want to run the entire race, leaving their human counterparts red-faced and out of breath. Other times, as is their prerogative, the donkeys don’t want to move at all.
”You can only go as fast as the donkey wants to go,” said Steve Kitzman, director of marketing and events for Cripple Creek, in a previous Gazette article.
Two-man teams lead donkeys from one end of Bennett Avenue to the other, completing activities along the route in pursuit of the coveted Donkey Derby Days trophy. Aspiring teams outnumber donkeys, so names are drawn from a hat and then randomly paired with an animal that might or might not be in a racing mood. The donkeys that participate are “racing donkeys” that don’t actually run wild, though Cripple Creek still boasts a free-roaming donkey herd.
The two-day jamboree dates to the 1930s, when local businessman Charley Lehew created it to attract summer visitors. It has also been said to hearken to a time when residents attempted to ride the wild steeds from Victor to Cripple Creek.
Attendees can meet the town’s newest donkey additions, and who doesn’t want to see a baby donkey?
There are also street vendors, melodrama performances, pancake breakfasts, a beer garden, parade, “Kiss my Ass” donkey kissing booth, live music and family-friendly activities such as a dog show and a petting zoo.
Admission is free. visitcripplecreek.com
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
June 20-Aug. 4, Vail
This long-running music celebration is held at multiple venues throughout Vail Valley.
The series, run by the nonprofit Bravo! Vail, started in 1987 as three concerts and has evolved into an international festival with dozens of performances.
A chamber music series runs July 2-22 at Vail’s Donovan Pavilion. Residencies include Dallas Symphony Orchestra, June 28-July 4; the Philadelphia Orchestra, July 5-13; and the New York Philharmonic, July 17-24.
The Linda & Mitch Hart Soirée Series presents four evenings of intimate chamber music and fine dining at private residences. Orchestra concerts take place at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.
Enjoy wine and nibbles during Classically Uncorked presented by Meiomi Wine, July 30-Aug. 1.
Some concerts are free while others require an individual ticket ($29-$250). Lawn tickets for children 12 and younger cost $5. bravovail.org
Green Box Arts Festival
July 4-13, Green Mountain Falls
Although the Green Box Arts Festival didn’t officially begin until 2009, its roots developed in 2006 as a dance residency for New York City-based Keigwin + Co. Now in its 11th year, the tradition is supported by the Kirkpatrick family of Oklahoma, which has ties to Green Mountain Falls.
The festival has broadened to include art installations, music, the culinary arts, classes and activities, including yoga, hiking, silversmithing workshops, stargazing, conversations with artists, wine tastings and bingo.
”Every year it is an artist-in-residency program, a place for artists to come and create works of art in the atmosphere of the beauty of Green Mountain Falls,” Rachel Shortt, marketing director, told The Gazette in a previous interview.
This year’s recently announced art installation will be an aerial project suspended over Gazebo Lake”1.8 Green Mountain Falls.” The 250-foot sculpture is made of structures and high-tech materials including atomized water particles. It makes its debut July 4. The title references the number of microseconds that the Earth’s day was shortened due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Tohoku, Japan, in 2011.
“It is a soft, fluidly moving, adapting sculptural form,” Janet Echelman told The Gazette in April. “When one point in the sculpture moves with the wind, every other point is affected and changed where they lie in space. The shape of the sculpture is always in flux, a reminder to us of our fluid place in the physical world.”
Festival performances are free, but artist workshops require paid registration. greenboxarts.org
Crested Butte Wildflower Festival
July 5-19, Crested Butte
The “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” is host to this festival celebrating Rocky Mountain wildflowers. Crested Butte’s mountainsides come alive with the colorful blooms of lupine, Indian paintbrush, columbine, mule’s ears, aspen sunflowers and larkspur, among others, after the snow melts every spring.
A couple of thousand people attend the Wildflower Festival, now in its 33rd year. The festival is dedicated to the conservation, preservation and appreciation of wildflowers in the Gunnison Valleyand adjacent wilderness areas. It boasts more than 200 events, including art and photography classes, guided hikes, Jeep tours, catered events, botany and geology lessons and van tours.
If you can’t make it to Crested Butte for the festival, don’t fret. The wildflowers stick around until August.
Festival headquarters is the Historic Train Depot, 716 Elk Ave.
Events are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. There are some free speaking events. Classes carry registration fees. crestedbuttewildflowerfestival.com
Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Aug. 16-18, Lyons
Music lovers flock to this iconic three-day outdoor festival held on 20 acres along the St. Vrain River. It’s one of Planet Bluegrass’ venues (the other hosts the Telluride Bluegrass Festival), and it doesn’t disappoint on the country ambiance. Some have dubbed it the most beautiful outdoor festival grounds on the planet.
The lineup for the 29th annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival isn’t too shabby, either. Performing will be Ani DiFranco, Mandolin Orange, The Oh Hellos, Ben Folds, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Violent Femmes, Daniel Rodriguez, The Steel Wheels, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, The War and Treaty, Gasoline Lollipops and Ellis.
Three-day passes, single-day tickets and on-site camping are available ($75-$235). Tickets are limited, so buy them soon if you’re interested. This will sell out. bluegrass.com/folks
Yampa Valley Crane Festival
Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Steamboat Springs and Hayden
The greater sandhill crane calls the Yampa Valley in Northwest Colorado home. It’s been a summer tradition for the past eight years to celebrate this iconic species at the Yampa Valley Crane Festival, presented by the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition.
The four-day festival runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, but the cranes don’t necessarily heed the schedule. Festival highlights include a keynote by Kerryn Morrison, manager of the African Crane Conservation Program for the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust,a picnic and crane conservation presentation by Ted Floyd, editor of Birding magazine, at The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch, and a photography workshop.
Visitors can participate in guided crane viewings, nature and bird walks, speakers, films, art, crane yoga, nature-journaling and sketch-a-bird workshops, owl pellet workshops and other activities for kids, live raptors presented by HawkQuest, and a photo contest.
Most events carry a small fee. coloradocranes.org