Savor the Flavors of Colorado’s Fall Festivals: Peaches, Chiles & Olathe Corn, Oh My!
posted by: Amber Johnson
CHILES: You know it’s fall in Colorado when the smoky aroma of roasting chiles fills the air. A staple of Southwestern cooking, chile peppers are grown in the high-desert plains surrounding Pueblo. Starting in late summer, farm stands teem with bushels, baskets and dangling ristras of chiles — like Di Santi Farms in Pueblo or Colon Orchards in Cañon City. Visitors can also take home jars of chile jellies, jams and other accoutrements to kick things up long after the season ends.
Chile and Frijoles Festival, Pueblo, Sept. 20–22, 2019: Thousands gather at this downtown street party each fall to pay homage to Pueblo’s two banner crops with cook-offs, street food and more. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of this celebrated event.
Brighton Chile Festival, Brighton, Sept. 7, 2019: Held at Lulu’s Farm in Brighton, this celebration of all things chile features food vendors, live music and pepper tastings.
APPLES: From fresh-picked Honeycrisps to hard ciders, Coloradans are positively apple-happy. In the fall, Big B’s Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss is the place to stock up on apples, ciders and zingy raw vinegars. Ya Ya Farm & Orchard in Longmont offers a great pick-your-own apple experience specializing in heirloom varieties.
Cedaredge AppleFest, Cedaredge, Oct. 3–6, 2019: A fall tradition since 1977, more than 20,000 fruit lovers pack into tiny Cedaredge in Delta County each year to sink their teeth into delicious locally-grown apples.
Colorado Hard Cider Festival, Hotchkiss, Oct. 26, 2019: This event presents the opportunity to sip creations from a dozen cideries from Colorado and beyond at Big B’s Delicious Orchards.
MELONS: In Colorado’s Arkansas Valley, late summer is marked by the harvest of Rocky Ford melons, an ultra-flavorful variety of cantaloupe grown southeast of Pueblo. Travelers can take their pick of piled-high melon stands that pop up all along Hwy. 50 each August while road tripping through the southeast part of the state. In northeast Colorado, the state’s oldest organic farm, Monroe Family Farm, sells its beloved melons at the Longmont, Lafayette and Boulder farmers’ markets, and Johnson Farm & Apiary just east of Brighton offers melons, peppers and even a corn maze in the fall.
Watermelon Day, Rocky Ford, Aug. 17, 2019: At the Arkansas Valley Fair, Watermelon Day includes seed-spitting, watermelon-carving contests and other old-fashioned fun.
CORN: Most Coloradans would contend that you haven’t really had corn until you’ve had Olathe sweet corn. By September, Western Slope corn farmers are up to their ears in this sweet variety. Okagawa Farms in Grand Junction supplies corn and other produce to local eateries like Cafe Sol and Bin 707 Foodbar.
Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, Olathe, Aug. 3, 2019: This food fest is so popular it recently expanded to a larger venue. In addition to offering all-you-can-eat sweet corn, the event offers national music acts, family activities and more.
Loveland Corn Roast Festival, Loveland, Aug. 23-24, 2019: This is Loveland’s oldest festival celebrating the city’s agricultural heritage. Attendees compete in corn-shucking competitions, fill their bellies with roasted corn and local craft beer and enjoy a charming parade.
HONEY: By early fall, the liquid gold of Colorado’s hardworking bees can be harvested one last time. At Björn’s Colorado Honey in Boulder, beekeeper Pontus Jakobsson uses Swedish methods passed down from his grandfather to produce small-batch, crystallized honey, including a propolis variety known for its health benefits. Just north of Durango in the Animas Valley, Honeyville whips up buzzworthy concoctions like Bourbon-Vanilla and Mountain Peach Whipped Wildflower Honey.
Parker Honey Festival, Parker, Aug. 4, 2019: Participants learn how bees make honey from local beekeepers, have the chance to try on a beekeeper suit and sample a wide variety of honeys.
POTATOES: Colorado’s San Luis Valley is the second largest fresh potato growing region in the U.S. Situated in an ancient lake bed, at an elevation of 7,600 feet, the valley enjoys mild temperatures and 350 days of sunshine each year. That’s why over 150 potato growing families have called it their home for generations. AtNelms Farm in Golden, visitors can even dig up their own all-natural, pesticide-free potatoes with forks and buckets provided.
San Luis Valley Potato Festival, Monte Vista, Sept. 7, 2019: Great growing conditions make the San Luis Valley the second-largest potato-farming region in the country — a fact celebrated at this late-summer throwdown.
Carbondale Potato Day Parade & Celebration, Carbondale, Oct. 5, 2019: This 110-year-old festival is the longest-running community event in Carbondale, which once rivaled Idaho in potato growing. In addition to the parade, the celebration includes a cookout, games and entertainment.
COLORADO’S LIQUID ARTS: Colorado’s craft brewing heritage and reputation as the country’s ground zero for small-batch artisan breweries make it the envy of beer-loving travelers across the globe. Colorado has also made its mark in the hand-crafted spirits industry with distilled rums, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and liqueurs that boast farm-fresh ingredients and crisp snow-melt water. Colorado’s wine industry, more than 110 producers strong, offers settings and wine-tasting rooms like no other wine region in the world.
Crested Butte Chili & Beer Festival, Crested Butte, Sept. 7, 2019: Held annually at the base of one of Colorado’s most iconic peaks, Crested Butte’s 21st annual Mt. Crested Butte Chili & Beer Festival features over a dozen breweries and locally sourced chili, plus live music and a beautiful mountain setting.
Colorado Mountain Winefest, Palisade, Sept. 19–22, 2019: This celebration of wine goes right to the source, taking place in Palisade, where much of Colorado’s wine is made. Attendees can sample the wares of 56 wineries, meet wine, cheese and peach growers and talk with painters, ice carvers and chefs. The event also includes a chocolate and port pairing, winery tours, winemaker dinners and grape stomping.
Lake City’s Uncorked Wine & Music Festival, Lake City, Sept. 21, 2019: This event features unique artisan and food vendors, seven musical acts and a variety of wines for tasting. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular weekend of hiking, fly fishing and more at this family-friendly festival.
Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival, Breckenridge, Oct. 19–21, 2019: Fall is the time when spicy spirits become the perfect answer to chillier temps. Attendees sip the best offerings from small-batch, artisan distillers and learn more about the distilling process in Breckenridge, a town with its own pioneering distillery.
Fort Collins Fall Harvest Brewfest, Fort Collins, Sept. 21, 2019: Fall Harvest Brewfest returns to the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins with 100+ beers from over 35 different breweries and micro-distilleries along with noshables for purchase from local food trucks. Live music, DJs and singer/song-writers provide live entertainment.