Celebrating the Colorado Bounty: 12 Small-Town Food Fests

Header Ads

Advertisements

At first blush, “celebrating agricultural heritage” doesn’t really sound like the most fun way to spend a weekend in Colorado. But throw in Rocky Ford watermelon-seed spitting, Palisade peach-inspired cocktails and Olathe sweet-corn-eating contests, and things take a decidedly more interesting turn.

Many of Colorado’s communities have summer festivals dedicated to the crops that have been increasing the profile of the state’s farm-to-table restaurants. Our chief specialty is fruit — Colorado’s warm days and cool summer nights mean everything grows a little bit sweeter than it would at warmer climes. Below are some of the festivals, spectacles and events that make tasting Colorado fun and delicious.

Strawberry Days: June 20–22, 2014

What started as a picnic to celebrate the Glenwood Springs area’s strawberry harvest and meet new neighbors 114 years ago has grown into a full-on strawberry-themed pageant with a parade, a juried arts-and-crafts fair, old-fashioned carnival, live music, a farmers’ market and free strawberries and ice cream, a tradition that’s held since the very beginning.

Paonia Cherry Days: July 4–5, 2014

When you hear the following words, nothing that comes after will matter: cherry cobbler cook-off. We can’t imagine needing anything else from cherry days, but Paonia piles the festivities high with an art walk, children’s carnival, “Paonia’s Got Talent” contest (get out your baton-twirling outfit!), Ute Trails Car Club show, a wine class, July Fourth parade and much more.

Olathe Sweet Corn Festival: Aug. 2014

The corn from Olathe is often described as melt-in-your-mouth tender. A slathering of butter would only compromise what Colorado’s sun and soil have already perfected. Find out what makes people speak so rapturously about it at the festival’s sweet-corn-eating contest. And afterward, while you’re putting all those toothpicks to good work, enjoy concerts by The Guess Who and Aaron Tipton, a monster fireworks display and a classic car show.

Palisade Peach Festival: Aug. 14–17, 2014

Much like Olathe’s sweet corn, Palisade’s peaches have been known to inspire gastric poetry, memorable limericks and devotional dances. Best described as drip-down-your-chin juicy, the perfect peach is celebrated at this festival in all its incarnations. Restaurants deck out their menus with libations, desserts and other peachy dishes. Peach-lovers revel in the fun with orchard and vineyard tours, peach-eating contests and loading as many bushels as possible into their trunks.

Telluride Mushroom Festival: Aug. 16–19, 2014

Scheduled for a time when mushroom growth is at its peak, hundreds of mycophiles descend on Telluride to soak up technical mushroom science, embark on mushroom-hunting excursions, taste the fruits of the hunt at a cookoff and more.

Watermelon Day: Aug. 17, 2014

Part of the Arkansas Valley Fair, this special day in Rocky Ford honors that sweetest of all melons with a 10K run, a watermelon-seed-spitting contest (you’ve been on the amateur circuit for years — it’s time to go pro!), watermelon carving, a bingo tournament and a famous “watermelon pile,” from which you can take a few free melons to slurp from on the way home.

Potato Day: Sept. 2014

This harvest celebration honoring the stalwart potato dates back to 1909 and now serves to ring in fall in Carbondale with a 5K Tator/Fossil Trot, farmers’ market, live music, horseshoe tournament, a bareback horse-riding competition and an infamous Potato Day Parade with dance troupes, trick horses and marching bands. A community barbecue picnic features, of course, baked potatoes and locally raised beef brisket roasted in fire pits.

Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival: Sept. 19–21, 2014

This event is your best chance to taste of pride of Pueblo: a special, intensely flavorful variety of green chile. Served smoking on a stick, chopped and tucked into a quesadilla or sprinkled in salsa, it’s the star of this show. Cooking competitions, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, and a farmers’ market round out the festivities.

Apple Fest: Oct. 2014

Driving into Cedaredge, you’ll pass row after heavenly row of trees bursting with shiny red and green apples beckoning you to sink your teeth in — and pick one up for the ol’ teacher, “Leave it To Beaver”-style. At Applefest, more than 150 vendors share the area’s agricultural wealth with visitors, who can also check out a classic car and antique tractor show, bands and much more.

Another small town, Penrose, has an apple fest of its own on in early October, with a parade, pie-eating contest and the annual choosing of the town’s Apple Dumplings (that is, the cutest kids in Penrose).

Locally grown cherries at a Colorado farmers' market
Locally grown cherries at a Colorado farmers' market

Things To Do

Related Trip Ideas

See All Trip Ideas