By May, Coloradans have packed away the sweaters and dusted off the flip-flops for the start of the busy festival season. Here’s just a sampling of warm-weather-embracing Colorado events that have us counting down the days until spring. Find your way to one of these, or check our Colorado events calendar to plan your vacation around our famous festivals.
Tri Montrose: May TBD, 2013
The southwest town of Montrose kicks spring fun into high gear with three big events on one May weekend. Up first, the Montrose Wine & Food Festival takes over historic downtown with fare from renowned national and regional chefs. The same weekend, the stunning Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park serves at the backdrop for the 36th Annual Black Canyon Ascent. The race leads runners and walkers from the valley floor to the rim of the canyon, navigating a more than 2,000-foot elevation gain in what has been dubbed Colorado’s toughest six-mile road race. And the city’s ninth-annual spring cycling event, Mission to Ride, takes place along the canyon’s rim. This noncompetitive century (100-mile) tour’s views will take any of your remaining breath away! If 100 is too many miles for you, there are 40- and 60-mile road routes, as well as a relaxed 30-mile out-and-back route to Olathe that’s become a favorite of the locals.
Pueblo’s Wild Wild West Festival: May 17–19, 2013
Things are likely to get pretty rowdy at Pueblo’s fourth-annual homage to the Wild West, the Wild Wild West Festival. Throughout the Union Avenue Historic District and the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk, cowpokes of all ages will find concerts, carnival rides, food booths, trick roping events, blacksmith demonstrations, chili cook-offs and much more. For the real deal, get tickets for the Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough Bull Riding event on Friday and Saturday nights at the Colorado State Fairgrounds, where you’ll learn how long eight seconds really is.
Estes Park Jazz Fest & Art Walk: May 18–19, 2013
Estes Park is especially festive when Grammy-nominated jazz singers headline the annual free Estes Park Jazz Fest concert series in the mountain town’s open-air amphitheater. Performers will be announced soon. Before the concerts, stroll Elkhorn Avenue’s galleries to see paintings, prints, pottery, jewelry and other pieces crafted by local artists, many of whom will be on hand for demonstrations and chatting with admirers.
Buena Vista PaddleFest: May 24–28, 2013
Considered the kickoff to the always-anticipated Colorado rafting season, Buena Vista Paddlefest invites lovers of rapids to the banks of the Arkansas River, one of the nation’s most popular whitewater destinations. Festivalgoers can check out clinics, gear swaps, concerts and a disc-golf tournament. All the activities center around the fest’s main event — the Buena Vista Pro Rodeo. This freestyle competition among the world’s top playboat athletes will take place at the Buena Vista Whitewater Park as part of the 2012 USA Freestyle Kayak Point Series.
Boulder Creek Festival: May 25–27, 2013
The season of outdoor festivals in the foothills college town of Boulder begins on the banks of its beautiful creek on Memorial Day weekend with the Boulder Creek Festival. Vendors offer everything from handcrafted jewelry to reflexology treatments to backpacks, and the locals come hungry to sample craft-brewed root beer, locally made chocolates, tofu burgers (this is Boulder, after all) and much more. There’s also live music on multiple stages, dancing in the streets, carnival rides, a beer garden and the crowd-favorite Great Rubber Duck Race, where thousands of bright-yellow duckies float down the creek to win their owner prizes and benefit a good cause.
Junior College Baseball World Series: May 25–June 1, 2013
Grand Junction has been home to the Junior College Baseball World Series for 54 years. The tournament is a great opportunity for baseball fans to see young players from all over the county coming into their own before they hit the big leagues. Each year, dozens of players from the National Junior College Athletic Association are selected in Major League Baseball’s draft (including 2010's No. 1 pick Bryce Harper, whose College of Southern Nevada competed in 2009's tournament). The 12,000-seat Suplizio Field, set amid Colorado’s beautiful wine country, hosts all 19 games of the series. Visit the Junior College World Series website for information and tickets.
Mesa Verde Indian Arts and Culture Festival: May 25–June 2, 2013
May is Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month in Colorado, and the communities near Mesa Verde National Park are celebrating the really old West with this festival. The area in and around the park, as well as the southwestern towns of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc, was home to Ancestral Puebloans as many as 2,000 years ago. Honor these cultures at the Indian art market, rug seminars and auctions, traditional dances, a powwow, and glassblowing demonstrations by award-winning glass artist Ramson Lomatewama. Learn about the ancient people who built Mesa Verde’s incredible cliff dwellings with ranger-led tours of the park and behind-the-scenes tours of the Anasazi Heritage Center’s artifacts collection.
Photo: Courtesy of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.