Coming this weekend: Carbondale’s Mountain Fair gets ready to celebrate 50 years of arts, fun and music | PostIndependent.com
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Coming this weekend: Carbondale’s Mountain Fair gets ready to celebrate 50 years of arts, fun and music

Festival returns to Sopris Park July 23-25 after one-year hiatus during pandemic

A collection of various newspaper clippings, past festival T-shirts, and photographs from 50 years of Mountain Fair is on display at The Launchpad in Carbondale.
John Stroud / Post Independent

One can visit the Carbondale Mountain Fair for a couple of hours on the last weekend in July and get a sense of what the unique gathering of townsfolk and visitors is all about.

Or one can literally “do” Mountain Fair for the better part of the three-day festival and play their own little part in the big show.

It’s that latter group of people, longtime locals, former residents who make the annual pilgrimage back each summer and traveling vagabonds, that have helped define the spirit of the fair for 50 years.



“I think what is different here is that there is a spirit that you don’t find at any other fair,” longtime Mountain Fair and Carbondale Arts Director Amy Kimberly said this week amid preparations for the big event.

“It is the community celebration, where people come together and kind of create this special space for the weekend,” she said.



Mountain Fair celebrates its golden anniversary the weekend of July 23-25 in and around Carbondale’s Sopris Park.

Mountain Fair Schedule

Friday, July 23

3 p.m.: 50th anniversary youth (and young at heart) procession into Sopris Park. Meet at the Launchpad, parade starts at 3:30 p.m.

4 p.m.: Opening Blessing and Drum Circle

5 p.m.: Native American Music and Dance at the Children’s Oasis; Sontres, Salsa music on the traveling Bandwagon

5:15 p.m.: Citizen Twang on the Gazebo stage

6 p.m.: Rock and Roll Academy Concert at the Oasis

6:45 p.m.: Bonedale Ballet Flashmob

7:30 p.m.: Tierro Band with Bridget Law on the Gazebo stage

9:15 p.m.: 50 Years of Mountain Fair Slideshow

Saturday, July 24

7 a.m.: Mount Sopris Runoff 14-miler and 4-Mile Fair Run (info at Independence Run & Hike)

10 a.m.: Worstminster Dog Show, Hendrick Dog Park; All Music Together at the Oasis; Crystal River Ballet on the Gazebo stage; Community Crankie with Natalie Spears and the Roaring Fork Drawing Club at the ARTery

10:30 a.m.: Fly Casting Competition at the Open Space

11 a.m.: Mozart Divertimento on the Gazebo stage; Bilingual Musical Storytime at the Oasis; Pie Judging (fruit, cream and exotic categories, drop off by 10:45 a.m.)

11:30 a.m.: Comotion and Eric Baumheier solos, small ensembles and improvisation scores

Noon: Sopris Soarers at the Gazebo; Community Sing at the Oasis; Singles Horseshoe competition at Glassier Park

12:30 p.m.: Tug-o-War between the Carbondale Police and Fire departments at the Open Space

12:45 p.m.: The Josefina Mendez Group on the Gazebo stage

1 p.m.: Kids Limbo contest at the Oasis; Women’s Voices with Music, Dance and Stories at the ARTery

2 p.m.: Adult Limbo contest at the Open Space; Cello-Bration at the Oasis; Red Hill Rollers on the traveling Bandwagon

2:45 p.m.: Jackson Emmer Band on the Gazebo stage

3 p.m.: Cafe Du Mer Lounge and Aquatic Games at the Oasis

4 p.m.: Women’s Woodsplitting at the Open Space; Hugh Phillips Band on the traveling Bandwagon; Family Friendly Open Mic at the Oasis

5 p.m.: Kids Aerial Open Play with Sopris Soarers at the Gazebo; Bonedale Flashmob

5:15 p.m.: The Reminders on the Gazebo stage

7 p.m.: Sopris Soarers at the Gazebo

7:55 p.m.: Spoken Word with Alya at the Gazebo

8 p.m.: The Motet on the Gazebo stage

Sunday, July 25

8 a.m.: Porcupine Loop Bike Race, meet behind the Gazebo (info at Aloha Mountain Cyclery)

9 a.m.: True Nature Yoga with Deva Shantay at the Open Space

10 a.m.: Brother Slim and the Faerie Tells at the Oasis; Voices’ Tiny Listening Gallery and Recording at the ARTery

10:30 a.m.: Flower Crown Making with Miss Molly at the Oasis

11 a.m.: Sweet Root and The Carbondale Choir on the Gazebo stage; Cake Judging (cake, alternative cake and cupcakes, drop off by 10:45 a.m.); Young Mountain Movers dance at the Oasis

11:30 a.m.: Voices’ Youth Takeover, at the ARTery

Noon: Doubles Horseshoe competition at Glassier Park; Poppy the Clown at the Oasis

12:30 p.m.: Lizzy Plotkin and Natalie Spears on the Gazebo stage

1 p.m.: Latin Creatives at the ARTery; Acro Yoga at the Oasis

1:45 p.m.: Sopris Soarers Encore at the Gazebo

2:30 p.m.: Don Chicharron on the Gazebo stage

3 p.m.: The Cowboy Corral at the Oasis

4 p.m.: Men’s Woodsplitting at the Open Space

5:15 p.m.: Band of Heathens on the Gazebo stage

Carbondale Arts, which organizes the event and serves as its primary beneficiary, has already been gearing up for the celebration for weeks.

A collection of 50 years of Mountain Fair memorabilia — ranging from the many iconic Mountain Fair T-shirts and other collector’s items to newspaper articles documenting the annual event — is currently on display at the R2 Gallery at the Launch Pad on Fourth Street in downtown Carbondale. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Also, for the past three weeks and concluding with a final installment next Tuesday afternoon, community radio station KDNK has been presenting a series of podcasts reflecting on five decades of the Mountain Fair.

Laurie Loeb is considered the “Mother of Mountain Fair,” having brought a traveling artists’ chautauqua to Carbondale in 1971, which ultimately evolved into Mountain Fair.

Loeb, in the first KDNK segment that aired June 29, described the fair as a coming together of the many different types of people who inhabited the small town at that time, from the hippie newcomers to the old-timer ranchers and hard-edged miners who had been in Carbondale for many years.

“The essence of the fair has not changed, in my opinion; that feel-good, positive energy of people getting along together despite any differences,” she said. “That still remains, and that’s the heart of the whole thing. … It is a celebration of life.”

The radio series features numerous longtime locals who’ve come and gone, and even old interviews with people who have since died, talking about the uniqueness of Mountain Fair through the decades.

The series can be found at KDNK.org for those who missed the Tuesday broadcasts.

Mountain memories

Camp Bonedale was the place to be in the middle days of Carbondale Mountain Fair. This relic is on display as part of the Launchpad R2 Gallery exhibit.

Among the voices is longtime local videographer Terry Glasenapp, who was asked by former fair director, the late Thomas Lawley, to document Mountain Fair through film and into the early days of digital video from the late 1980s through 2003.

“I would be there all weekend long with my camera nonstop,” Glasenapp said, describing his early shoulder-held VCR and Beta recorders.

He also collected boxes and boxes of local newspaper clippings and other memorabilia that are part of the R2 exhibit that runs through next week.

“I never realized how those newspaper articles and photos really captured the story until I started going through them,” he said.

Glasenapp attended the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 and came to Carbondale in 1976. He said Mountain Fair has always had that same sort of free and open-to-all spirit.

“What it is about Carbondale Mountain Fair is that it’s open to everybody, all ages, all sizes and all colors, across all spectrum of people,” Glasenapp said. “It’s also the hundreds of volunteers who put their hearts into it and help make it a free event.”

Today, his own grandchildren enjoy the drum circle and the wide array of children’s activities that the fair offers.

These girls looked to be tuning up for the kids limbo contest at next week’s Carbondale Mountain Fair. The limbo stand is on display as part of the Mountain Fair memorabilia exhibit at the Launchpad.
John Stroud/Post Independent

He remembers one special musical moment shortly after he began filming the fair when John McEuen of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame was playing and sang the folk anthem “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” A member of the local band Sirens of Swing at the time, Elva McDowell, wrote an extra verse to the song talking about “Colorado Mountain people” that was sung that night for the first and probably the only time ever.

Another time in the early 1990s McDowell and the Sirens were singing the 1960s classic “White Bird,” toward the end of which a white dove was released from beside the stage and swooped over the crowd before flying off toward Mount Sopris, he recalled.

Like a phoenix

When the world shut down last year due to the global pandemic, including festivals across the country, Mountain Fair plugged along in its own special way.

Rather than a big gathering in the town park, organizers took it to the streets with a traveling stage carrying local bands to the people outside their houses, and a mini arts booth showcase with a limited number of people allowed in at a time.

“We wanted to make sure we had a 49th Mountain Fair so we could have a 50th this year,” Kimberly said.

“Last year turned out to be an incredible experience, as nerve-racking as it was going into it. But the traveling band wagon was so well-received that we’re actually doing it again this year,” she said.

There may be some lasting benefit to some of what had to be done last summer in the way of social distancing that could improve Mountain Fair in future years.

Instead of packing all of the arts and crafts and food vendors into Sopris Park this year, as had been the practice in the past, they are being spread out this year to include side streets and parts of downtown Carbondale.

“Maybe that’s something that we need to look at anyway,” Kimberly said, noting the fair has kind of outgrown Sopris Park over the years. “We don’t know, but this is giving us an opportunity to try some new configurations and see what involving the downtown a little more will feel like. We’re hoping that people feel comfortable when they come to the fair, and not as crowded.”

That’s not at all to say people can’t socialize, she said.

“Our saying this year is, ‘From one year of social distancing to 50 years of socializing.’ That’s a huge part of the Mountain Fair,” Kimberly said.

On the main stage, the 50th Mountain Fair will also feature some of the more famous bands from past years, including Saturday and Sunday closers, respectively, The Motet and Band of Heathens.

A grand artistic procession from downtown to Sopris Park is set to kicks things off at 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 23, followed by the traditional drum circle led by Loeb to start the festivities.

The Friday night music lineup includes a farewell performance by local band Let Them Roar and the return of several past Mountain Fair performers in the form of Tierro Band with Bridget Law, featuring founding members of Elephant Revival, Kan’Nal and Jyemo Club.

A retro slide show is set to close out the show on Friday night.

Saturday and Sunday bring the traditional competitions that are a big part of the fair, including wood splitting for both men and women, the 14-mile Sopris Runoff foot race, limbo contests for adults and kids, and pie and cake judging.

A throwback to years past will also be a tug-of-war competition between the Carbondale police and fire departments.

Newcomer’s perspective

The winning 50th Carbondale Mountain Fair poster and T-shirt design by Larry Day.

It’s notable that this year’s Mountain Fair poster and T-shirt design winner is a relative newcomer to town, sketch artist Larry Day, who captured the essence of Mountain Fair with several magical strokes of the pencil.

In an interview earlier this week, Day admitted his first Mountain Fair was just a few years ago. What struck him was the “chaos,” as he first described it.

“Maybe that’s not the best way to say it, but the one thing I really noticed being an outsider coming here from Chicago is that there was just a lot going on,” Day said. “Mountain Fair just seems to have its own voice.”

So when he decided to submit a concept for the 50th anniversary poster and T-shirt design, he settled on a scene depicting a couple seeking out a little peace and solitude in the middle of Sopris Park, surrounded by this grand festival of dancers, drummers, musicians of all sorts, circus-style performers, ax-wielding wood choppers … everything Mountain Fair encompasses, including Loeb in the image of an octopus leading the drum circle.

And not just people, but animals, too — which is curious because pets are not allowed in the park.

“It’s just this mix of chaos and humor that I thought captured the spirit,” Day said. “Even though I’d only been there once, I just took it all in and observed a lot of what the fair is all about.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.


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