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“It is easily forgotten,” begins Michael Anania’s poem Memorial Day, “year to year, exactly where the plot is.” Though Anania was referring to the plot of a soldier’s grave, he might as well have been describing the plot of the commemorative holiday itself. Amidst our modern festivities, it can be easy to forget how we came to celebrate it, as well as why we still do.
Today, the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on our relationship with the U.S. military. But that contemplation can certainly occur while spending time with the people we care about, enjoying the change of seasons and each other’s company. After the year we’ve had, that promises to be quite the treat. To help, we rounded up seven ways to make the most of Memorial Day weekend in Colorado.
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Friday Night Bazaar: RiNo Arts District | May 28
Bring your dogs, your kids, and your appetites (both cultural and gastronomic): More than 30 food trucks and fashion vendors make this weekly marketplace a worthwhile event. Along with the retail therapy, you can enjoy live music while sipping on margaritas and Moscow Mules, which are five bucks from 4 to 5 p.m. 2424 Larimer Street; 4–9 p.m.; registration is free
Colorado Symphony Chamber Music Series | May 28–30
Classical music feels even more special outdoors, where the intricate melodies and harmonies can join the breeze and float through the air. And few create that experience better than the Colorado Symphony. The group’s summer concert series at the Arts Complex Galleria begins this weekend and runs through mid-June. Different cohorts perform each day: Friday features a string quartet and Saturday stars a woodwind quintet. 1400 Curtis Street; a table for two is $120
Mountainfilm Festival | May 28–31
This massive documentary film festival spotlights more than 20 feature films and 100-plus shorts, including some Oscar nominees, that focus on environmental, political, social justice, and adventure storylines. If you can’t make the weekend trek to Telluride to spectate in real theaters, you can soak up the cinematic glory from the comfort of your own couch, bed, or bath (we’re not judging!) with a weeklong online pass. Various locations in Telluride and online; individual in-person tickets start at $20 and an all-access online pass is $150
Opening Day at Water World | May 29
The holiday weekend coincides with the Denver water park’s long-anticipated reopening. There are two new attractions and almost 40 established ones across Water World’s expansive 70-acre campus, so you and your group will never run out of thrills and spills. Tickets are only left for morning entrance times, but you know what they say: The early bird gets the birdbath. 8801 N. Pecos Street, Federal Heights; general admission is $26
Memorial Day Saturday Cornhole Tournament | May 29
Tossing around bags of corn kernels on a Saturday afternoon for a good cause feels like just the right combination of whimsy and competition. Thirty-five percent of the pot goes to the first- and second-place finishers. Table Urban Farm, an organic foods nonprofit helping to alleviate hunger in Denver, gets the remainder of the money generated by entry fees. If a double-elimination tournament for up to 20 two-person teams feels a little too high-stakes, the game boards will free up for more casual play later in the afternoon. 2190 S. Platte River Drive; entry is $25 per person
Ben Harper at Red Rocks | May 31
No one mixes blues, reggae, soul, and folk like Ben Harper. His immaculate guitar-picking and delicate vibrato will be on display in Denver’s best amphitheater Monday night. It’s been a month since Red Rocks reopened, and Harper, a three-time Grammy Award–winner, is one of the best acts yet. 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison; tickets start at $60
Evergreen Music Festival | May 31
Buchanan Park has been home to Fourth of July music festivals before, but this is the inaugural Memorial Day event. The morning program features the band Denver Brass; the afternoon show features A Love Letter to Amy Winehouse performed by Franny & the Jets; both include a drumline and a ballet performance. Food trucks, drinks from a local brewery, and a classic car show round out the event. 32003 Ellingwood Trail, Evergreen; general admission is $25