For many people, Parker Days marks the official start of summer.
Kids have just finished school and moms and dads are trying to schedule a mix of fun family excursions. The annual festival in downtown Parker is near the top of the priority list for a lot of locals, who make sure to block out at least one day for stomach-churning carnival rides, foot-shuffling music, spirit-lifting drinks and guilty-pleasure eats.
The 2014 edition of Parker Days, which begins with a carnival sneak preview from 5-10 p.m. June 12 and runs to the night of June 15, promises the popular attractions of past years and a few additions.
Organizers are introducing a “craft corner” near the O'Brien Park gazebo, with 20-plus craft vendors selling handmade items like stained glass, Adirondack chairs, tables made of reclaimed wood, and wine bottles heated and molded into cheese trays.
A new competition area in the Las Delicias parking lot at Mainstreet and Pikes Peak Drive will feature backyard games like pong, bag toss and ladder golf. Two-person teams can join tournaments for $10 and win prizes; casual players can play individual games, said Sara Crowe, founder of Events, Etc.
Of course, there will be a selection of carnival rides for all ages on the north end of O'Brien Park from Wright Amusement, Co., the same company that has been furnishing rides for much of the festival's 37 years.
The Parker Days Parade will kick off the weekend at 10 a.m. June 14, winding through the downtown corridor and around the Victorian Drive loop. As many as 10,000 are expected to attend the parade, a tradition that will include fire trucks, high school marching bands, political candidates, equestrian groups, pageant royalty, the Wells Fargo stagecoach and representatives from Denver's St. Patrick's Day Parade.
At 9 a.m. Sunday morning, June 15, Parker Days will host its first family fun run. The free event, which requires registration at www.ParkerDaysFestival.com, will take runners from the main music stage, around Victorian Drive, past the car show on Pikes Peak Drive, up Sulphur Gulch Trail and back down Mainstreet to the starting point.
To honor the dads on Father's Day, the festival's organizers are giving away three grills, one each at 1:45 p.m., 3:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. at the main stage in O'Brien Park.
With 40 more vendors than last year, street performers, live music and kid favorites like the giant hamster ball, Parker Days will pack a lot on entertainment into a short window and back up this year's tagline: “Three and a half days, 35 and a half hours of things to do.”
If the weather cooperates — Crowe is hoping for “exactly 82 degrees and no rain” — Parker Days will bring 125,000 to the downtown district. The festival is the single largest money-maker each year for the Parker Chamber of Commerce.
HOURS, PRICES & PARKING
Thursday: 5 - 10 p.m. (carnival only)
Friday: 5 p.m. - midnight
Saturday: 9 a.m. - midnight
Sunday: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Food and drink tickets: $1 (price range is $3-$10 per item)
Single-day carnival pass: $25 per person online, $30 when purchased on site
Four-day "Mega Carnival Pass": $60
Inflatables: $3 and up
St. Matthews Episcopal Church parking lot (free)
Crossroads Shopping Center near Parker Library (free, use tunnel under South Parker Road)
Shopping center lots on southeast corner of South Parker Road and Mainstreet
PACE Center parking lot (except Saturday and Sunday morning)
Farmers market will be in PACE Center parking lot
RTD park-n-Ride lot on Longs Way
Grace Baptist Church lot (paid lot, fundraiser)
Parker Senior Center lot (paid lot, fundraiser)
Parker Station lot (paid)
PACE Center parking lot is free lot