For thousands of metro-area folks, Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, means Taste of Colorado festival time: free admission; five stages of entertainment; more than 50 food booths, ranging from hot dogs to “fine dining”; artists; and a section called “Festival of the Mountain and Plain,” which is where it all started in 1895.
First organized by Denver businessmen, including William Byers of the Rocky Mountain News, it featured a parade with 25 bands, a masquerade ball that attracted 5,000 and exhibits of American Indian dances and culture, according to an online history.
It lasted until 1912 and then fizzled out until about 30 years ago, when Denver business owners started it up again for the same reasons: to bring people downtown.
The Denver Civic Center will be filled with activity (there will be some street closures) and bands will be playing rock, country, Motown and more all day long.
Openers on Friday will be Rebel Tongue at 11:45 a.m. with hip-hop, jazz and soul, followed by Denver's Two Girls With Guitars at 2:15 and the Mary Louise Lee Band with music from the 1960s and today at 5:30 p.m. (Lee is married to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.)
In the food area, culinary demonstrations by well-known chefs are scheduled and there will be more than 50 marketplace booths, including Fine Art in the Park and a Home and Lifestyles area with products for home remodeling, as well as salons and spas.
The state's pioneer past, nature, the environment and Native American arts such as Navajo weaving and culture will be demonstrated in the Festival of Mountain and Plain area, plus early crafts such as spinning, rug braiding and lace crocheting. A blacksmith demonstration is always popular. Nearby is a KidzStage with music, clowns, puppets, play equipment and hands-on crafts for kids.
Among the bands scheduled are Motown legends The Commodores, Denver's DeLeon Brothers Band, En Vogue, the Wallflowers and the Christian pop/rock duo King and Country.
On Labor Day, alternative rock band Rumours Follow will open at 10:45 a.m. and longtime local group Chris Daniels and the Kings will close out the festival, starting at 6 p.m. with a mix of R&B, funk, “jump blues” and rock.
If you go:
The Taste of Colorado/Festival of Mountain and Plain fills Denver's Civic Center between 14th Avenue, Colfax Avenue, Broadway and Bannock Street from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2. Festival hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 29; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 30 and 31; and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 1. Admission is free. Food tickets are sold in various quantities. Parking is in surrounding lots or on the street — or from the south area, one might want to consider riding into town on light rail. The free mall bus takes one to the Civic Center Station across the street. Visit ATasteofColorado.com for schedules and information.