Thousands of people swarmed downtown Boulder and the paths around the fast running creek, drawn by live music, art, food, people watching and children's activities in the big summer kick-off party that is the Boulder Creek Festival.

The 26th annual festival kicked off Saturday and continued today, with more than 400,000 visitors expected through Monday.

“It's my favorite thing every year,” said Alex Dutro-Maeda, an incoming senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It's the kick off to summer. I like seeing all the people and all the dogs.”

The Boulder tradition offers nine separate event areas with 500 vendors showcasing everything from food and beverage, to arts and crafts, to technology and health. The festival also has a variety plate of music and dance performances on four different stages, as well as carnival rides for children and adults alike.

Boulder's Clare Brandt said she comes mainly for the kids' activities for her 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and 7-year-old son, Benjamin.

“It's a good way to spend Memorial Day weekend,” she said. “It's nice to hang out with everybody in Boulder.”

A climbing wall, canoes, foam sword fights, carnival-style games, plastic bubbles to “walk” on water, a ropes adventure course and bungee jumping were all popular with young festival goers. Everyone was invited to try out a trapeze with the help of members of the Frequent Flyers student company, who also gave aerial dance demonstrations.

“It's great to get the word out and show people what we do,” said Haley Sutcliffe, a member of the student company and an incoming sophomore at Boulder High.

Margaret Arzon and Carlso Martin, members of Los Casineros, dance to Cuban salsa at the dance stage of the Boulder Creek Festival. The 26th annual Boulder
Margaret Arzon and Carlso Martin, members of Los Casineros, dance to Cuban salsa at the dance stage of the Boulder Creek Festival. The 26th annual Boulder Creek Festival continued on Sunday, with more than 400,000 visitors expected through Monday. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
“It's so healthy. It keeps you fit and strong.”

Added Emma Brown, who's graduating from an online high school, “It's just so much fun. Anyone can do it.”

Teens could hang out in their own section, organized by Boulder's Teen Advisory Board. Today, the centerpiece was a battle of the bands, with the winning student band invited to perform at 12:30 p.m. Monday at the bandshell. The area also included a Dog House Music booth with short music lessons, a booth with information on the Natural Highs program and a booth with information on sexual health.

“We wanted a teen friendly place that was just fun,” said Julie Olsen, an advisory board member and incoming junior at Fairview High. “The rest of the festival is either directed toward adults or little kids. It's nice to have a middle ground.”

The jam band Tynan the Great — made up of a trio of incoming seniors at Monarch High — is a battle of the band veteran, performing for the past four years. Member Davis Conklin said it's his favorite place to perform.

“It's so awesome to perform here,” he said. “It's really nice out, and people are really supportive.”

Creek Fest's signature event, the EXPAND Duck Race, is at 4 p.m. Monday, with rubber ducks for sale at five different stands through the weekend. Proceeds benefit the Boulder Parks and Recreation EXPAND Program, which provides recreational and cultural opportunities for people with disabilities.

Also on Monday — Memorial Day — is the 35th annual Bolder Boulder 10K race, which will draw more than 50,000 participants.