By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

Last summer, festivals and events were rescheduled, then canceled. A few pivoted to post their performers on Facebook Live and other online venues. There is little doubt that it was an unprecedented year, and now words like unprecedented and pivot are part of our everyday language.

This summer, for many cities, towns and nonprofits, putting on a festival will be a balancing act between safety, tradition and fun. Crowd size is the biggest concern, and it is impossible to know what level of safety will be required by the counties and state during the next few months. However, with vaccines rolling out at a faster rate than expected, hope is in the air.

Putting on a gala for the public is no easy task. While a few festivals are ready to go at the drop of a hat, many simply cannot go on without securing sponsors months in advance, renting equipment, booking bands and getting volunteers. And while it does appear that summer 2021 will be better than 2020, it will still be far from normal. This year look for safety measures in place such as timed entries and handwashing stations.

Loveland levels up the fun

“We have a lot of hope for this summer,” says Fawn Floyd-Baltzer, marketing and membership manager for the Loveland Downtown District (LDD). “And hopefully, our splash pad at The Foundry will reopen.”

This year, Loveland is planning events starting May 29 with Saturday Dine Out, part of The One Sweet Summer Event Series organized by the LDD. Held mostly at The Foundry plaza, a variety of activities take place during the event series, from yoga to children’s programing to live music on Wednesday nights.

Saturday Dine Out, which was embraced by locals last year, will be back with live music and dining on downtown streets. Instead of seven Saturdays in a row, however, it will take place on the last Saturday of the month to correspond with Shop Local Saturdays.

For up-to-date information on downtown events, including a new beer and bluegrass festival in the works, go to downtownloveland.org.

The concerts at Foote Lagoon in Loveland are run by The Rialto Theater. The series will start on July 29. Unfortunately, the theater has had to cancel shows occurring indoors this summer, but they hope to come back strong in the fall.

McWhinney is the company behind Sounds of Centerra, a free, four-week music series held on Fridays in July at Chapungu Sculpture Park east of The Promenades Shops at Centerra in Loveland.

“We’re ready to go and we’re committed. We just want to make sure everyone is safe and as comfortable as possible,” says Celeste Smith, senior marketing director at McWhinney. “While there may be a pre-registration process, it will remain free.”

Find information for all Centerra events atcenterra.com/events. Additional activities are in store this summer, including 5Ks, birdwatching walks, drive-in movies, and even a new festival built around Centerra’s designation as a community wildlife habitat, the first designation of the kind in Colorado.

One of the most popular summer celebrations in Northern Colorado is the Loveland Chamber of Commerce’s Corn Roast Festival. The chamber is moving ahead with the beloved bash that will be held at Fairgrounds Park at its regular time in late August.

“People were smart at the Loveland Farmers Market at Fairground Park last year, and with the vaccinations that are happening we feel that by the end of August we’ll be sitting in a good position. Probably not at 100 percent capacity but we’re moving ahead with plans,” says Mindy McCloughan, chamber president.

Fort Collins forges ahead

There is so much to consider when putting together a big party, but hope is something everyone in the festival world has in common. Many 2021 festivals are still working out the details, but they are planning to happen, such as Taste of Fort Collins, June 5 and 6.

“While it’s not clear exactly what a safe outdoor event will look like this summer, given NOCO is doing well with vaccine distribution, I’m confident the show will go on this summer, live, in person and super-festive,” says Evan Harrison, president of Townsquare Media NoCo, the company that organizes Taste of Fort Collins.

The City of Fort Collins doesn’t have an event production department, however, events within the city limits must be permitted by them. The city does put together the fireworks display on 4th of July, and it is being planned, although details have yet to be determined.

“I think we’re going to see hybrid events this summer where there are some in-person components but also some live streaming,” says Jan Sawyer, special events coordinator at the City of Fort Collins. “I’m very cautiously optimistic.”

Sawyer has reason to be encouraged. Last year, 15 events took place in Fort Collins during the fall. All of them were athletic in nature, because the organizers found ways to make their races safe for participants.

“They worked great,” says Sawyer. “I absolutely expect to see a lot of our races and athletic events back in a modified form.”

Sawyer is also seeing all types of events being moved to later in the summer, and it could be a busy August and September. In addition to the online calendars at Visit Fort Collins and Downtown Fort Collins, a good spot to go is fcgov.com/specialevents.

Windsor and Greeley geared for summer

The Town of Windsor’s recreation coordinator, Lexie Spykstra, is planning for a full slate of summer activities that will stay within regulations set by the county and state. Their farmers market will start in June, the Yappy Hour Series involving pups and beers is back on First Fridays, and the summer concert series and movies in the park are on the schedule starting in June.

“We do plan to have these events, but they will all most likely include a pre-registration given capacity restrictions,” says Spykstra of the town’s events held at Boardwalk Park.

Capacity is being carefully considered for the free Arts Picnic, one of Greeley oldest and most cherished summer festivals. New this year, Lincoln Park will be fenced for the event and inside there will be two sections with rotating musical acts. Patrons will also be asked to bring their own chairs.

“Everything is, of course, dependent on whatCOVID-19 level the state is at in July,” says Jason Evenson, manager of cultural affairs at City of Greeley. “We promise we will hold it if it’s safe. Our primary responsibility is to protect public safety.”

Greeley’s Friday Fest has been happening for years and most bands booked are local. This means the extravaganza can go on this summer with certainty. The free, well-attended event will start up May 28 and continue throughout the summer.

In the meantime, the Greeley Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is looking at an extension of dining on the street. Of course, the extension of dining on the street will only exist if a compromise can be made between downtown businesses, as it closes roads and sidewalks.

“We are not just bars and restaurants downtown,” says Alison Hamling, chairperson of the Downtown Greeley Promotional Association. “We absolutely have to take other businesses and tenants into consideration.”

With an up-to-the-minute calendar on their website, greeleydowntown.com is the place to go for all things happening in Greeley’s downtown corridor.

In addition to downtown, the Greeley Blues Jam plans to proceed with their festival on June 5 with a kick-off party during Friday Fest on June 4. The ever-popular Greeley Stampede is also planning to occur. It takes place June 25 through July 4.

Outside NOCO

There are many unknowns this summer, and while staples like the Taste of Colorado in Denver have not made any decisions yet, there will be fun to be had in the form of festivals.

Team Player Productions, for example, ran a pandemic-safe beer festival in the fall of 2021 in Vail, and has six events happening this summer from burger battles in Denver to wine tastings in Breckenridge.

Even in the big city, festivals are setting dates, albeit later than usual. For instance, the Dragon Boat Festival, one of Denver’s largest fetes, is moving to September. In the mountains, Taste of Vail has moved from April to September.

There is no doubt that festivals will look a little different this year, but for those eager festival goers who stay abreast of current events and know what to expect before they go, it should be a summer filled with fun, especially in Northern Colorado.

 

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer from Loveland. She is the founder of HeidiTown.com and covers travel, festivals and The West. To comment on this article,emailletters@nocostyle.com.