Nibbles Blog: Field Guide to Colorado’s Summer Music Festivals

Pondering the glut of must-go summer gatherings this summer across the state and trying to schedule a calendar and itinerary could require an app, not mention a calculator. From music festivals that include paddleboarding to barbecue competitions and Shakespeare under the stars, there seems to be a destination right for hipsters, families, craft brew fans, sidewalk art geeks and country music lovers. By JOHN LEHNDORFF, via his blog.

To help you choose we have assembled a guide to Colorado’s top festivals, circa summer 2016 (minus the ones that happened in June) . The list is focused mainly on multiple day happenings so we left out a wealth of concerts at such epic venues as Red Rocks and Chautauqua Auditorium.

This feature appears in the June 2016 issue of Sensi Magazine:

Top Image: Sam Bush and David Grisman join the Del McCoury Band at the 2015 Rockygrass for a stellar version of Grisman’s instrumental, “Dawg’s Bull.” (John Lehndorff)

Here are few of our singalong, dance-along, yoga-fied, scratch-n-sniff favorites:



Cherry Creek Arts Festival

July 2-4 Cherry Creek North, Denver

Why it’s cool: Cool kids art activities, food booths and live music in the streets of Cherry Creek North

Lineup: 260 juried exhibitors and emerging artists and a huge collaborative mural


Rocky Mountain Old Time Music Festival

July 6-10, Parrish Ranch, Berthoud

Why it’s cool: Historic farm barn hosts square dancing and workshops on being a square dance caller

Lineup: Foghorn Stringband, Red Squirrel Chasers, Bootlickers


High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival

July 7-10, Bluff and Summit Park, Westcliffe

Why it’s cool: Intimate crowd, onsite mountain camping, four days of progressive bluegrass jamming

Lineup: Claire Lynch, David Grier. Keith Little, Helen Highwater Stringband, Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore, Steel Pennies


Rocky Mountain Regional Gay Rodeo

July 8-10, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Golden

Why it’s cool: The hippest, most fun rodeo event of the summer in Colorado

Lineup: All day rodeo including riding steers with a Grand Entry of competitors at noon each day


The Ride Festival

Telluride Town Park July 9-10

Why it’s cool: Camping, hiking, fishing, biking, a roaring river and restaurants in a box canyon surrounded by San Juan Mountains peaks

Lineup: Pearl Jam, Cage the Elephant, The Dirty Knobs (with Mike Campbell), The Temperance Movement, Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons, Radio Moscow, Band of Heathens


Crested Butte Wildflower Festival

July 11–17, Crested Butte

Why it’s cool: Picture yourself hiking down one of Colorado’s most eye-popping valleys painted with wildflowers

Lineup: Botany in Half a Day; Stalking the Wild Edible; Folk Remedies


The Divide

July 22-24, Winter Park

Why it’s cool: Coachella-inspired festival includes mountain biking tours, trail running, yoga, camping, food trucks

Lineup: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Passion Pit, Kid Cudi, Blondie, Cake, Foxfield Four, Gipsy Moon, Splyt, The Fray


Bass Center 2016

July 29-30, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City

Why it’s cool: Multiple official after-parties offsite and camping villages (The Shire & Narnia); Nitrous oxide prohibited

Lineup: Bassnectar, Flux Pavilion, Wu-Tang Clan, Flying Lotus, Porter Robinson, Lupe Fiasco, Alunageorge, Minnesota, G Jones, Dabin & Thriftworks


RockyGrass Festival

July 29-31, Planet Bluegrass, Lyons

Why it’s cool: Eye-candy location, small audience, great food, concert-side creek, Colorado state bluegrass championships, family tent

Lineup: Steep Canyon Rangers, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, Abigail Washburn, Mark O’Connor, Rhonda Vncent







August 5-7, Buena Vista

Why it’s cool: Rafting the Arkansas, VIP Tents, dancing and organic food with 14,000-foot peaks of the Collegiate Range as a backdrop

Lineup: Odesza, Alabama Shakes, Trey Anastasio, Dawes, Fruition, Graham Nash, Houndmouth, The Claypool Lennon Delirium


Telluride Jazz Festival

Aug. 5-7, Telluride

Why it’s cool: It’s in Telluride. Plus: Free Colorado craft liquor tasting on Friday

Lineup: John Cleary, Marcus Miller, Galactic, John Scofield, Jeff Coffin, Rebirth Jazz Band

ARISE Music Festival

Aug 5-7

Sunrise Ranch, Loveland

Why it’s cool: Seven stages, yoga, theme camps, art gallery installations, children’s village, speakers, films and camping on 100 acres

Lineup: Ziggy Marley, Jurassic 5, The New Mastersounds, hutureprimitive, Jeff Austin, Travelin’ McCourys, Fortunate Youth, Everyone Orchestra


20th Annual Bluegrass & Beer Festival

Aug. 6-7, Keystone

Why it’s cool: Craft breweries, live bluegrass in an exceptionally cushy environment for a bluegrass festival

Lineup: Larry Keel, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Mandolin Orange


Telluride Mushroom Festival

Aug. 18–21, Telluride

Why it’s cool: 36th annual fungi-centered gathering features the famous Mushroom Parade

Lineup: Forays, mushroom identification sessions, demos, dinners, screenings and discussions about culinary, medical and mind-altering aspects of fungi

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival

Aug. 19–21, Lyons

Why it’s cool: This is an audience that actually listens to lyrics

Lineup: The Decemberists, Lucinda Williams, Passenger, Darrell Scott, Dougie MacLean, Kathy Mattea, The Lone Bellow, Cheryl Wheeler


Aug. 26-28, Barker Reservoir, Nederland

Why it’s cool: Jam-centric season ender is blocks from the hand-carved Carousel of Happiness and a few miles from Caribou Ranch Open Space, site of legendary Caribou studio where John Lennon, Elton John recorded.

Lineup: Taj Mahal, Kyle Hollingsworth, Roosevelt Collier, Melvin Seals and JGB, Paper Bird


John Lehndorff has written about music in Colorado for the Boulder Daily Camera, Rocky Mountain News and Bluegrass Unlimited. Read his blog at: Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on Boulder’s KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, streaming at




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