The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Thanks to a record-setting amount of rain this spring, Colorado’s fields and farms are greener than ever. With summer just around the corner, the state’s agricultural hotspots and mountain towns are ripe for festival season—and we’ve hand-picked the best bets for you:
Glenwood Springs Strawberry Days Festival, June 19–21
One of the longest-running summer festivals in Colorado, Strawberry Days has come a long way from its simple picnic roots. This year, the 118-year-old festival features parades and princess pageants, a battle of the bands, and both 5K and 10K races in honor of the year’s chosen theme—Glenwood Rocks. According to organizers, the weekend’s festivities will celebrate the region’s canyons and caverns, as well as rock ‘n’ roll icons. On Saturday, strawberries are the main feature, with free strawberries and ice cream in the park.
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
Where: Sayre Park, 1702 Grand Ave.
Drive Time: Just over 2.5 hours
Paonia Cherry Days Festival, July 3–5
Spend your 4th of July weekend in the quirky mountain town of Paonia, where festival-goers compete in cherry pie-eating contests and coal-shoveling battles. Located in the shadow of the West Elk mountains, Paonia is often noted for its bountiful fruit—cherries, apples, pears, and peaches—and its nearby coal mines. The festival, now in its 69th year, pays homage to both with three days’ worth of events. If you’re lucky, you might even win the title of Cherry Days King or Queen and go down in history as Paonian royalty.
Where: Paonia Park
Drive Time: 4 hours
Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, August 1
Before this Western Slope delicacy can make its way to markets across the United States, it’s honored by locals with a riotous—and ravenous—celebration. In any given year more than 70,000 ears of sweet corn are consumed by some 20,000 festival-goers. Join the throngs of corn connoisseurs double-fisting cobs and try your hand at some of the corn-inspired competitions that include everything from corn husking to kernel spitting.
Where: 420 Horton Ave.
Cost: $10 (adults), $5 (children)
Drive Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
Palisade Peach Festival, August 14–15
At the Palisade Peach Festival, rubber ducks are so passé. Instead, peach revelers race the plump fruit down the mighty Colorado River in a bid to win first place as part of the annual Peach Plunge. If adrenaline-filled fruit races aren’t your jam, you can always check out the biggest peach contest; last year’s winner weighed in at 1 pound, 15 ounces—not counting its crown.
Where: Riverbend Park, 451 Pendleton St.
Cost: $7 one-day pass (adult), $3 one-day pass (child), $5 one-day pass (senior)
Drive Time: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Rocky Ford Watermelon Day, August 22
Dubbed “the greatest melon festival in the world,” Watermelon Day at the Arkansas Valley Fair has proven itself a fan favorite over the past 137 years. The day’s melon-themed merrymaking kicks off with a watermelon-carving competition in the morning, followed by some classic seed-spitting contests, and concludes with an open watermelon pile at 11 a.m.
Where: Rocky Ford Fairgrounds, 800 North 9th St.
Drive Time: 3 hours