For years, Chautauqua has been a place where folks seek rest and relaxation. It also has been the locale of high-energy concerts by such artists as Bob Weir and Ratdog, The Indigo Girls, BB King and Ziggy Marley. From hosting TEDxBoulder to providing the perfect scenic Flatirons backdrop for painters of the Boulder Plein Air Festival to capture on canvas, this Colorado landmark — founded in 1898 — continues to enrich all who explore its winding trails.
On Dec. 13-15, the historic park will be transformed into a festive wonderland unlike anything Boulder has seen before. The inaugural WinterFest includes a craft market, historic cottages gussied up for the season, Boulder’s only outdoor rink with mountain views, a scavenger hunt and so much more.
“We are trying to offer the community an event that highlights the unique charm of Chautauqua,” said Jason Hill, director of operations at Colorado Chautauqua Association. “It’s easy for people to attend events in the summer and autumn, but we are trying to extend that experience up here through the winter time. We want to be a year-round destination.”
WinterFest stems from Chautauqua’s ever-popular Breakfasts with Santa, an annual custom that will continue to be a part of this year’s offerings. Children also can enjoy a holiday concert by award-winning musical duo Jeff and Paige at 4 p.m. Friday at Chautauqua Community House.
“Colorado Christmas Lights and its owner Somerset McCarty donated every one of the lights visitors will see on the Chautauqua campus and which will be lit during the magical lighting ceremony,” said Liza Purvis, Chautauqua director of marketing and communications. “It’s an unbelievably generous gift to our community — and Chautauqua — worth many thousands of dollars.”
Horse-drawn carriages will transport guests from one sparkling wonder to the next throughout the weekend. Privately-owned cottages, whose interiors are rarely seen by the public, will be open for visitors to marvel at and learn more about the history of each on engaging docent-led tours.
“Mostly we have individual community member volunteers decorating the cottages, but Cottage 30 is being decorated by local Latinx groups Promotores Verdes, Americas for Conservation and the Arts and Americas Latino Eco Festival,” Purvis said.
Members of Boulder’s Jewish community are also decorating a cottage and will serve latkes during a progressive-appetizer jaunt that coincides with Cottage Tours.
“We are trying to make this a diverse and inclusive event,” Purvis said. “We really want visitors to engage with all that Chautauqua has to offer and sample everything.”
Free events include the inaugural Chautauqua Holiday Lights Ceremony, accompanied by music, at 5 p.m. Dec. 13. Food Trucks serving up varied fare include Holy Crepe, What the Fork, Seb’s and Los Dos Bros.
Visits to Santa’s Morning Glory Cottage, Cocoa and Crafts and Campus Tours also are available at no charge. Chautauqua staff members have even provided old-school Polaroid cameras, as there will be plenty of photo opportunities all weekend long.
“You could not get a more magical setting,” Purvis said. “There’s such a mix of different events for all ages.”
Hot cocoa and perhaps even mulled-wine will be enjoyed on the porch of the Dining Hall. Folks will have a chance to pick up exclusive holiday gifts at WinterFest Market held in the historic Missions House. Vendors include Beelieve Candles, Donnamite Pottery, Jacque Michelle, Apron Wings, Noonday Collective and Gnome for the Holidays.
Also available will be original whimsical Chautauqua merchandise featuring WinterFest Bears, designed by watercolorist Jennifer Smith.
“The activities are so close together — feet away from each other,” Purvis said. “People can design their day or their weekend. It can be done on a small scale or as big as they want it to be.”
Sure, visitors may have caught a concert at the auditorium or hiked a trail, but this celebration provides them with multiple opportunities to see Chautauqua in ways they never have before. WinterFest guests looking to get the full experience have the chance to rent one of Chautauqua’s recently remodeled cottages at a discounted rate.
“A lot of people don’t go beyond the dining hall,” Purvis said. “We want them to get a sense of these little streets.”
Not only does WinterFest provide the public with an array of free and reasonably priced festivities to partake in, it also allows visitors to give back. Chautauqua has partnered with fellow Boulder nonprofit Blue Sky Bridge — an organization dedicated to child abuse intervention and education.
“Supporting this important local child resource seemed like a natural fit,” Purvis said.
The opening of WinterFest marks the start of a Boulder tradition that Purvis and Hill are hoping will continue for years to come — attracting locals and out-of-towners looking to experience snow-dusted towering pines, free hot chocolate and the sort of joy-filled merriment seldom found in typical holiday happenings.
“I’m so excited to see the look on kids’ faces when those lights go on,” Purvis said. “Next year, we hope to do even more.”
If you go
What: Chautauqua’s WinterFestWhen: 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. Dec. 13-15Where: Chautauqua, 900 Baseline Road., BoulderCost: Day Pass – $18 ($15.00 Concert Member), Weekend Pass -$28 ($25 Concert Member) Numerous free events: Chautauqua Light Ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 15., Cocoa and Crafts, Campus Tour, Santa’s Cottage, WinterFest Market, Photo StationMore info: chautauqua.com/winterfest/info-tickets *Scroll down for schedule and map