The first traces of autumn, with its slight air of crispness and pumpkin spice accoutrements, have hit us. While Halloween is still a bit further out, Boulder is hosting a three-day festivital that marks a transition into shorter days, red leaves, spiked cider and corn maze explorations.
Boulder’s Fall Festival, now in its 32nd year, kicks off Friday with live music, micro brews, local food, games and the artisanal Firefly Handmade Market — a marketplace for handmade-only goods that gives folks an opportunity to get an early jump on holiday shopping.
“I always look forward to bringing our community together for this long-time celebration of the end of summer and beginning of fall in downtown Boulder,” said Anna Salim, vice president of events and membership for Downtown Boulder. “It’s fun to explore the variety the event has to offer — from great food and Avery brews, to Firefly Handmade’s amazing artisans and great music. It’s the best of downtown Boulder neatly dished up in a single day or two.”
Like any good Front Range festival, music is key. Previous acts that have performed at Fall Fest include the four-piece high-energy bluegrass band Chain Station and roots-reggae band Policulture. This year’s lineup doesn’t skimp on variety or value.
“We invite local acts to submit every spring and we listen to everything to put together a really upbeat lineup that is first and foremost quality, but also brings a range of styles to our audience,” Salim said. “We ended up with a great variety this year, kicking off with local favorites Chris Daniels & the Kings and Funkiphino — and then a weekend filled with everything from honky-tonk and a brass band to bluegrass and ‘80s favorites.”
Guerrilla Fanfare, The Lucas Wolf Trio, The Goonies, Jackie and the Racket, Intuit, Liver Down the River, Suzuki Strings, JauntGrass and others will perform at the downtown performance stage on the 1300 block of the Pearl Street Mall.
While Fall Fest-goers will have an opportunity to taste seasonal brews from Avery Brewing, they also will have a chance to savor other unique beverages from Cowgirl Lemonade, a Denver-based company that sweetens their drinks with real Vermont maple syrup.
There are also plenty of chances to play outdoors.
“This year, I’m really excited to be offering free lawn games on Friday night, followed by completely free kids attractions — three different inflatable options — on the Boulder County Courthouse Lawn on both Saturday and Sunday — a Fall Fest first,” Salim said.
Another aspect that makes this event so special is the presence of Firefly Handmade Market, Colorado’s premier indie bazaar featuring 120 artists and their diverse mix of skincare, pet gear, leather goods and more.
“Firefly pulls in a great crowd of attendees,” said Noelle Phares, Denver-based watercolor and mixed-media artist. “As a studio artist who spends a lot of solo time painting, I love getting out to converse with the people who are drawn to my work. Everyone has a different story regarding how they first found me, and what it is that intrigues them about what I do. I love hearing each background story — and sending art home with new customers, of course.”
The work of Phares beautifully fuses the serenity of natural spaces with geometric shapes — a juxtaposition that jumps off the canvas. Sunlit and shadowy mountain ranges are only enhanced by boldly colored octagons, sharp angles and grid-like lines. A former environmental scientist, she pulls elements from her previous career into her mesmerizing pieces.
“Breaking lands into data layers spawned in me a new way of thinking about terrain,” Phares said. “I began to see areas of land as the compilation of numerous distinct, yet highly relational layers of information stacked on top of each other. I realized from an analytical perspective that landscape is not simply what is visible by the naked eye. There are boundless unseen forces that act upon any given space over time, and will continue to do so to shape how it physically presents itself, both functionally and aesthetically.”
She uses acrylic, watercolor, gouache, pencil, pastel and charcoal to create enthralling scenes of snowy forest-filled backcountries and cactus-laden hills.
“When I paint now, I harken back to those learnings to reimagine the presentation of an environment — to evoke the unseen.” Phares said. “I think these two worlds of mine will always feed each other.”
From Dillon Reservoir to Independence Pass, a number of the Centennial State’s natural spaces have been reimagined by Phares.
“I do use my explorations outside as an inspiration for the landscape elements of each painting,” Phares said. “I typically paint mostly in the studio, but I am often referencing photography from my own adventures, and the memory of what each place felt like.”
Phares will have a large selection of archival prints of paintings in various sizes, some framed prints and a limited selection of new original works in tow.
“I did not go to art school and had no experience selling art before I dove in full-time two years ago,” Phares said. “It was kind of a crazy move, but I’m an all-or-nothing gal, so there was no ‘toe in the water’ phase.”
Phares is among a number of artists who will be selling wares. From jewelers to sculptors, the range of individuals showcasing thoughtfully-crafted pieces is sure to impress — but, Salim also sees the festival as an opportunity to pop into those brick-and-mortar spaces that bring much vibrancy to Boulder.
“I hope attendees take some time while at the event to check out some of the retail stores, galleries and restaurants that call downtown ‘home’ year-round,” Salim said. “Fall Fest is so much fun and a great reason to come downtown — but there is so much more that I hope people will discover while they’re here.”
If you go
What: 32nd annual Boulder Fall FestivalWhen: 5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. SundayWhere: Downtown Boulder, on the Pearl Street Mall (1300 Block of Pearl and 14th streets)Cost: freeMore info: boulderdowntown.com/fall-fest