Kids and adults alike are counting the days until Parker’s most prominent summer blowout.
Now in its 36th year, the Parker Days Festival is known for delivering memorable days and nights filled with thrilling rides, exhilarating games, hip-shaking live music, succulent food and plenty of people-watching opportunities.
The 2013 incarnation has all of the attractions of years past, plus a few experimental features. Starting with a carnival sneak preview June 13, Parker Days runs through June 16, taking over O’Brien Park, downtown parking lots, vacant properties and streets.
It’s the perfect way for school kids to kick off their summer break, but there is a bit of nostalgia involved for longtime festival-goers. Those who grew up with Parker Days as a seminal part of their summer are now returning with their own kids. Like their parents did, they make sure that the second weekend in June is blocked out, so as not to mistakenly schedule a conflicting family vacation.
Joshua Rivero, a town council member who has lived in Parker for 24 years, describes the atmosphere as that of a “huge neighborhood block party.” He runs into old high school friends, visits booths for impulse buys, listens to music and takes in the revelry. The festival has been an anchor for Parker and presents an opportunity to “showcase” the town to outsiders who might be considering a move to a place with a true hometown feel.
Organizers made a few tweaks this year. The KYGO-featured country music act, Tyler Farr, is playing on the main stage on Friday night instead of Saturday. Sara Crowe, event coordinator for Events, Etc., which was contracted by the Parker Chamber of Commerce, said the main music act was moved to Friday to help spread out the crowds. There is already a built-in audience on Saturdays.
Chamber leaders are expecting around 120,000 people, although that number hinges largely on the weather; Crowe is keeping her fingers crossed for “perfect, 82-degree” days and calm nights. The festival is the chamber’s largest annual source of revenue, and much of the money comes from alcohol and ticket sales. Additionally, the 2012 Parker Days Festival generated an estimated economic impact of $1.5 million for the downtown district.
Kicking off the festival weekend is the annual parade, which has 73 entries of all kinds this year. It starts at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center at 10 a.m. and travels along Mainstreet before following the Victorian Drive loop. The parade will feature mascots from Denver’s professional sports teams, royalty from Colorado’s pageant circuit, the Chaparral High School band, plus local kids and service organizations.
One-day passes for the carnival are $25 when purchased in advance at www.parkerdaysfestival.com and $30 on site. Mega Passes good for carnival rides all four days cost $60.
Other Parker Days Festival highlights
• Street performers and buskers, including jugglers, fire performers and “live” statues, will again be part of the action.
• Radio Disney will pump out music from the O’Brien Park gazebo from noon to 5 p.m. June 15 and 16.
• The PACE Center will have daytime programming and have five professional chalk artists on hand creating masterpieces.
• More than 100 classic cars will be on display downtown during the Parker Car Fest from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 16.
• Wright Amusements, the longtime contractor for amusement rides, is coming with 45 carnival attractions.
• At various times, four separate stages will host country line dancing, belly dancers and mini game shows.
• Between 350 and 400 volunteers will pitch in to help the festival go smoothly.
• Three recycling bins will be set up, including two near the main stage, and Boy Scout troops will help man the bins to make sure no trash is thrown in them.
• Kids can look forward to the ever-popular swimming pool hamster balls and bounce houses.
• A strongman competition is set for 11 a.m. June 15 near the main stage.