It has survived violent thunderstorms, public safety scares, droughts and decades of staff changes.
But as Denver’s longest continually running arts and culture festival enters its 46th year with retooled programming and a slick new behind-the-scenes producer, the biggest challenge for the People’s Fair might just be the city it calls home.
“There’s a lot more competition and a lot more going on for people than there was back in those days,” said Andrea Furness, event director at Team Player Productions, of the People’s Fair’s late-’90s and early 2000s attendance pinnacle, when it drew an estimated 350,000 people over two days in June. “That’s part of the decline from that time period to now, really largely based on how the city has changed.”
Despite the sharp increase in arts and entertainment options in Denver in recent years, organizers of this year’s People’s Fair still expect 150,000-200,000 visitors to flock to Civic Center park June 3-4.
Nearly 100 fine artists, 27 food vendors, 98 crafters and small businesses, and 49 nonprofits will gather at Civic Center, a location that has been closely associated with the People’s Fair since it moved there 30 years ago.
The free People’s Fair is one of the only large-scale festivals in central Denver not defined by a holiday weekend, corporate title sponsorship or other specific theme. And along with Labor Day weekend’s A Taste of Colorado and a few others, it’s still one of Denver’s biggest public gatherings.
That’s all the more impressive considering the People’s Fair’s identity is anchored to community vendors, nonprofits, kid-friendly carnival attractions and a mostly local mix of live entertainment, from the Dazzling Divas drag show and Colorado Mestizo Dancers to musical acts such as La Pompe Jazz, SF1, Kayla Marque, Gasoline Lollipops and June 3 headliner Guster (OK, so that last one is a national act).
“That’s something brand new for us,” Furness said of the national music presence, which includes Night Riots and a closing-day collaboration between members of Gipsy Moon, Leftover Salmon and the Infamous Stringdusters.
The People’s Fair is also an event some residents love to hate, given the street closures, parking squeeze and other traffic-and-noise disruptions. A giant-turkey-leg gathering, as some have called it, and one without much purpose.
That’s a misconception, said Furness, who has worked on the People’s Fair for the last 11 years, first with longtime event producer Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN) and now with Team Player Productions.
“I would say to give it a chance, come down and walk through it first,” said Furness, citing the juried fine art show, which takes over 14th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock Street, as an example of something unusual and valuable about the festival.
Team Player, a Denver-based company that runs numerous music and cultural festivals, athletic races, corporate events and tours in Colorado and Utah, purchased the rights to the People’s Fair for $1 in October, while CHUN reorganized itself into an all-volunteer organization.
“I have mixed emotions,” Roger Armstrong, executive director of CHUN and director of the People’s Fair, told The Denver Post in January as he prepared to leave the nonprofit due to budgetary constraints. “It’s hard to let go of an event you helped produce for two decades.”
By John Wenzel | Read the rest of the article here: