Colorado has become the epicenter of a burgeoning psychedelic movement. In 2019, Denver became the first city in the United States to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Three years later, the entire state followed suit when voters passed Proposition 122, which decriminalized various naturally occurring psychedelics—including magic mushrooms—while also establishing a legal pathway for psychedelic-assisted therapy. Then in June 2023, Denver hosted Psychedelic Science, the largest global psychedelics conference in history.

But despite Colorado’s increasingly progressive reputation, some psychedelic industry leaders believe there’s been something missing so far: fun.

“Especially after Proposition 122 happened, people are now just growing their own mushrooms,” says Eric Burden, who runs a mushroom supply business called Denver Spore Company. “And while I love the therapeutic aspects of Proposition 122, nobody’s taking the chance to have some fun yet and do something that’s more for the consumers and people that actually live in this culture.”

Jonathan Cherkoss, who organized last November’s Psychedelic Cup competition for mushroom growers, says he’s noticed the same thing. Although there have been plenty of serious presentations about psychedelic-assisted therapy and expensive conferences such as Psychedelic Science (which cost between $750 to $1,700 per ticket) where scientists and venture capitalists exchanged business cards, few organizers seemed to create space to highlight the more whimsical aspects of psychedelic culture. Where was the art and music and creativity and weirdness that’s long been associated with psychedelic use?

That’s why the two friends decided to organize Denver Shroom Fest, a one-day festival whose inaugural kickoff takes place at ReelWorks on June 9 (noon to 10 p.m., tickets $65).

“We thought, Let’s take it away from the convention-style thing and have something more fun-focused and party-focused,” Burden says. “And things just kind of snowballed from there.”

Here are just some of the eccentric offerings that attendees of Denver Shroom Fest can expect.

1. Rapid Mushroom Testing

Denver Shroom Fest is leaning fully into the possibilities that Proposition 122 allows. While Burden cautions that consumption of psilocybin mushrooms on-site is prohibited under Colorado law, he says that attendees can still bring “personal amounts” of mushrooms they’ve grown at home. At the festival, a company called Friday Ventures will offer on-site mushroom testing for any growers who want to determine just how much magic is in their fungi. “They get the testing done quick,” Burden says, “and they’ll even send the results to your phone.”

Burden also says that gifting small, personal amounts of mushrooms to other attendees is permissible under the decriminalization provisions in Proposition 122. “Just don’t try to sell them, because that’s illegal,” he says. “Anyone who might come with a backpack and thinks they’re going to earn $600 and be the cool guy—that’s not going to happen.”

2. Immersive Psychedelic Art

Novo Ita exhibit at Spectra Art Space. Photo by Julianna Photography

While Meow Wolf Denver might get most of the attention, a similar but much smaller immersive art space on South Broadway has been attracting local art lovers. Inside Spectra Art Space, fantastical creatures that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book and kaleidoscopic colors transport guests to an alien world. Cherkoss is thrilled to have convinced Spectra’s artists to recreate some of their Spookadelia exhibit at Denver Shroom Fest.

Around the main concert stage in ReelWorks, veteran video DJ David Schunemann, who goes by the artist name Actualize, will project mind-bending visuals along at least three walls of the warehouse. Actualize is a mainstay at Red Rocks and is frequently hired by electronic musicians such as A Hundred Drums and Of the Trees to help transport audiences to alternate planes of existence.

3. A Musical Journey

Music just hits different when you’re on a mind-altering substance, so it makes sense that Denver Shroom Fest has curated a lineup of eclectic musicians to keep attendees vibing all day. As a nod to the jam bands of the 1960s and ’70s, the roster includes the local four-piece band the Jauntee, whose modern spin on Grateful Dead noodling veers into jazz and funk. At other times of the day, heavy bass and modulating electronic melodies will vibrate through the venue, including during headlining performances from rising EDM star Dot and Austin-based beat producer Mindex.

4. Educational Talks and Vendors

Taking a page from previous conferences, Denver Shroom Fest will incorporate an educational component, including presentations from expert cultivators with Altitude Consulting about how to grow your own fungi. But unlike November’s Psychedelic Cup, the workshops will be geared toward beginners. “The talks will be like Cultivation 101,” he says.

Then, after hearing growing tips, aspiring shroom farmers can purchase any supplies they need to get started from the indoor marketplace, which will boast at least a dozen local mycology companies. “They’ll have grow bags, monotubs, genetic syringes—all that stuff,” Cherkoss says. Additionally, the organizers expect some vendors to display mushrooms in various stages of the growth process so that newbie cultivators can learn what to expect.

5. Live Painting and Art Auctions

If festival-goers still haven’t had their fill of art, Threyda Gallery from the Arts District on Santa Fe has tapped local creators to do live painting. The Gallery is known to display works from some of the most prominent psychedelic artists at work today, including Alex Grey and Android Jones—the latter of whom will conduct a live auction of some of his work at the festival. “I don’t want to say this will be the centerpiece of the festival, but it’ll be a big focal point,” says Burden. “Being able to check out all the different artists and their installations is going to be really cool because they’re doing some amazing stuff.”

Cherkoss agrees. “While we’re offering people an opportunity to learn about mushrooms and natural medicines with this festival, it also really gives us space to allow people to have fun and explore the culture.”

Denver Shroom Fest takes place June 9 at ReelWorks. General admission tickets are $65 and can be purchased online.

Chris Walker
Chris Walker
Chris writes for various sections of 5280 as well as