Carbondale Mountain Fair celebrates community, creativity, homecomings
There wasn’t exactly a rainbow to mark the opening of the 48th Mountain Fair in Carbondale, but the sun did peek through the clouds despite rainstorms throughout the Valley.
The theme for this year is the Rainbow Connection, but the absence of rain in Carbondale’s Sopris Park Friday afternoon was appreciated.
“We are so blessed here. It is torrentially raining everywhere but here. The magic of Mountain Fair is already upon us,” Friday emcee Katrina Byars said to mark the beginning of the festivities.
Actually, the festivities had already started — the famous drum circle kicked off 20 minutes early, then began again after a blessing from Ute elder Roland McCook.
“The atmosphere here, and the way you feel here, reminds me of when my people gather for celebrations.” McCook said. “The feeling of togetherness, family, everything here is the way we feel when we give our celebrations,” McCook said.
Video: Highlights Mountain Fair Day 1
Mountain Fair is a beloved tradition for locals, especially on Friday night.
“We meet people we knew in the ’80s. When they come back to visit, they like to come to Mountain Fair because they know everybody is in town,” Kyra Whalen said.
Whalen said she moved to Carbondale in 1978, and didn’t attend Mountain Fair for the first few years. But since she started, she hasn’t stopped participating.
Over the years, some things have changed, she said. There are more local bands, and more activities geared toward children.
“I think it’s just a great place where everybody comes, sits down, drinks and visits, sees everybody else’s kids and grandkids. I don’t think it’s changed that much, we still have everything that brought us here,” Whalen said.
One person who returns to Carbondale each year for the Mountain Fair is Tammy Mathias, who makes sure here mother, Earlene, participates in the drum circle.
“It’s a really, really big deal. It’s one of the neatest things in the whole valley,” Mathias said.
Mountain Fair this year is particularly important to Mathias, who now lives in Golden, because it would have been her parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary.
“It’s a special time to remember my dad,” Mathias said. Jack Mathias, a longtime Carbondale resident, died in June 2017.
Along with the music, drinks, drum circles, acrobats, bounce castles and dunk tanks, Mountain Fair also has an impressive selection of tools and artwork by local and regional artisans.
Some sell flowers, butterflies, beetle wings and porcupine quills encased in resin and hung on earrings and necklaces.
Many painters and potters sell their work, and all around the park are tents selling wood carved utensils, birdhouses and baskets, hand-forged cutlery and homemade brooms, leather holsters and cactus terrariums in hanging fishbowls.
In addition to the Rainbow Connection theme, supporting LGBTQ community, this year’s Mountain Fair also recognized the late Thomas Lawley, fair director from 1985 to 2002, who died earlier this year.
Bill Dunn of Carbondale also believes Mountain Fair is the best event that happens all year.
“It’s such a pleasant place to be on a weekend. The music is good, the people are happy, and there’s no trouble,” Dunn said.
“Everyone is nice, and polite, and relaxed, for the most part. And the ones that aren’t you just ignore,” he added.
“This is the place to be. Because there is just no other place quite like this place, so this has got to be the place to be,” McCook said in his opening blessing.
Before he returned to his place in the drum circle, McCook asked for a moment of silence for those who inhabited the valley in years past; both native peoples and as pioneers who settled in the region.
“You can hear the drums, and the mountains have been lacking those drums for all these years. To hear those drums echoing off those mountains, the mountains themselves listening to you laugh and giggle, just as my people did when they were here many years ago,” McCook said.
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