EAGLE COUNTY — Marisa Selvy remembers a time, not long ago, when the third weekend in August was oddly dead.
As co-owner and vice president of marketing at Crazy Mountain Brewery, Selvy saw an opportunity: That neglected weekend was the near-perfect time to host a local beer festival made for brewers, by brewers. Dubbed EdFest, it injected life into the perpetually slow weeks between Vail’s music, dance and cultural festivals in late July and the summer-ending hurrah of Labor Day.
But the times, oh, they are a-changin’. This August, four years after the first EdFest drew thousands of craft beer faithful to the Edwards Riverwalk, Selvy’s brainchild is joined by nearly a dozen other happenings, from the ever-popular farmers markets in Minturn and Vail to the Flavors of Colorado festival, Avon’s brand-new, two-day ode to the state’s eclectic artisan community.
One thing’s for sure: The once-dead weekend is now alive and well — and it’s yours for the taking.
At Avon’s new Flavors of Colorado festival, “flavors” can be just about anything, as long as that anything is intriguing, inventive and thoroughly Colorado.
As part of the town’s push to attract visitors throughout the summer, the festival, held at Nottingham Park on Saturday and Sunday, has a little something for everyone. The lineup is almost daunting: beer tasting with Denver’s Front Range Brewing (plus more than a dozen others), limoncello samples from Eagle’s brand-new 808 Distillery, live aerosol work by local street artist William Thompson, culinary demos from a cadre of local and Denver-based chefs, live music courtesy of Todd Park Mohr from Big Head Todd and the Monsters — the list goes on.
Don’t let the sprawling scope intimidate you. Entry to the festival is free — be sure to bring cash for tastings and the like — and new flavors, whatever those may be, abound. Take Claude Seeman, owner of 808 Distillery, who makes his festival debut at the park.
“It’s kind of a niche thing,” said Seeman of his limoncello, found at local hangouts like e|town and The George. “Some people won’t be interested in this kind of product, but we’re hoping that a lot of people will give it a chance. Different kinds of people like different kinds of spirits, and we were really thinking of something lighter and unique.”
On the traditionally artistic side, valley native Thompson will show a range of work at his festival tent, from pop-art portraits to a series of dollar bill experiments. But his personal highlight is the Colorado-inspired piece he’ll create live during the opening charity dinner tonight, a benefit for Avon’s Walking Mountain Science Center.
“I’m fairly new to the live painting scene, but it’s really fun,” Thompson said. “You have a huge crowd watching you do your thing. I just get sucked into the art.”
Tickets to tonight’s charity dinner are $100 for adults and $50 for children 14 years old and younger.
For Cy Curnin, a founding member of the British rock group The Fixx, playing stages and arenas the world over hardly compares to the relaxing, relatively low-key weekend in Vail.
Since 2012, the Vail Rocks concert on Aug. 16 has been the cornerstone fundraiser for the Love Hope Strength foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit started by cancer survivors James Chippendale and Mike Peters, one of Curnin’s good musician friends. Along with annual treks to far-off locales like Mt. Everest and Machu Picchu, the weekend raises money for bone marrow transplants, connecting donors with in-need patients. The Love Hope Strength tagline: “Saving lives, one concert at a time.”
Although Vail is far removed from Mt. Everest — not to mention unorthodox drive sites at shows by O.A.R., Linkin Park and Robert Plant — it continues to attract big-name musicians like Curnin with two simple hooks: hiking and live music.
“It was love at first sight,” Curnin said. “I like the idea of mixing rock ‘n’ roll, the rock ‘n’ roll attitude, with something that does good for others.”
The Vail event begins with a kick-off party at Bol, which gives attendees — many of whom are cancer survivors or faithful contributors — a chance to meet before Saturday’s hike. Led by guides from Backpacker magazine, the trek winds along Vail’s Berrypicker trail, with regular stops for acoustic tunes by Curnin, headlining act DeVotchKa and, for the first time, attendees themselves.
After leaving the mountain, the party gets started in earnest with concerts at Checkpoint Charlie in the heart of Vail Village. Curnin and DeVotchKa are joined by the Denver’s The School of Rock, with guest vocals by Peters.
“As we know, cancer can affect anyone at any time,” Curnin said. “Being able to do a small thing, just tipping your hat to the cause, makes you feel good and has a collective ripple effect. Everyone’s little pebble adds up.”
Last-minute registration for the hike is $99 through the Vail Rocks website until Saturday. The Saturday concerts at Checkpoint Charlie are free and open to the public.
Like Crazy Mountain itself, EdFest is outgrowing its humble roots.
For the first time since 2011, the combination beer and music festival moves from the middle of Edwards Riverwalk to the inviting, wide-open soccer fields at Freedom Park, found near the WECMRD Fieldhouse.
The venue change was only natural, Selvy said. As the festival grew larger and bolder — this year brings 65 breweries, up from 32 last summer — it needed room to kick up its feet, so to speak. Not only will the soccer fields fit more vendors, but the nearby fieldhouse will act as a sort of base camp, where brewers can set up tents for a true festival experience. (A festival-goer campsite is in the works for next year.) Selvy wants the brewers to fully enjoy Colorado — particularly newcomers from Brazil, Britain and 10 other international breweries — even as they give beer lovers a taste of the unusual.
And the new EdFest is more than an introduction to global brews. Much more: This year includes tastings with Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey and Vail-based Parce rum, beer-inspired “cocktails” (think gin with Lava Lake Wit) and the debut of barbecue from the brewery’s resident eatery on wheels, Crazy Wagon Food Truck.
For Selvy, though, bluegrass is the beer’s true counterpart. The concert lineup includes former local favorites Laughing Bones — the band is reuniting for its first show in years — and headliner North Mississippi Allstars, making its only Colorado appearance of the year.
Tickets for EdFest on Saturday are $39 (pre-sale until 11 p.m. today) or $49 at the gates. A $79 VIP pass includes side-stage seats, a buffet and more. The unlimited tasting runs from 3 to 6 p.m., with a cash bar after 6 p.m. when the music begins.