It’s been a rough two years for all of us, but festivals were one of the hardest-hit industries during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Though events are back in action this summer (and they look and feel pretty normal, too), we checked in with Ryan Slater, chief operating officer for Team Player Productions, the company that puts on Boulder Creek Festival, the Vail Craft Beer Classic, Vail Wine Classic, Breckenridge Wine Classic and the Denver Burger Battle in Colorado. Here’s what he had to say about this year’s Boulder Creek Festival, which is slated for May 28-20.
1. What have the last two years been like for you and your team? What happened with the Boulder Creek Festival during the pandemic? What was that like?
The last two years have been a rollercoaster. In 2020, we did a virtual version of the Boulder Creek Fest, which was a two-day virtual market where guests could video chat with our vendors and visit their online shops. With so many local businesses involved, we were eager to be able to showcase and support them when the live festival couldn’t occur. It was nice to be able to do anything at that point, but our team really thrives on building in-person experiences and the video setup wasn’t as rewarding.
In 2021, we had a skeleton team and made the decision to move Boulder Creek Festival off of its traditional weekend to July so we could have more time for people to get vaccinated and (fingers crossed) COVID rates to go down. It paid off. If we had done the event in May, we would have been very limited in what we could do. Our team essentially had to plan for the state levels – red, orange, green, yellow and purple – and what the event would look like, how we would pivot for layout, number of people, number of vendors, kids activities, bars, etc. It was exhausting, but the July event was really fulfilling to be able to bring the community back together after such a rough two years. It seemed like the public had a big appetite to go to live events again.
This year, we’re really looking forward to doing a full-blown festival on Memorial Day weekend and hosting the event Boulder knows and loves. We are still working closely with Boulder County Public Health and keeping a close eye on how we can continue to make the event as safe as possible. Our goal is to showcase the local music and small businesses of Boulder and celebrate the people and businesses that make Boulder so great.
2. What makes Boulder Creek Festival so special, in your opinion?
Boulder Creek Festival has become the “kickoff to summer” in Boulder, which is over Memorial Day weekend. The festival has been going on for more than 30 years, making it a tradition in the community. This celebration of the Boulder community features local artisans, businesses, performers, artists and food trucks. From Creekside for Kids to the Creekside Beer Fest, there is something for all ages attending the festival. It highlights local music and small businesses and has become such a tradition in the community. It’s really incredible to see people who have been coming to the event for years now bringing their kids and grandkids.
3. What can people expect this year? What’s new, what’s different, what’s the same, what favorites are back and why?
People can expect a more “normal” Boulder Creek Festival that they know and love. As always, we’ll have local beer and seltzer at the bars, a plethora of kids and family activities, local bands and community performances, food and shopping.
This year’s festival will kick off with a new Friday night concert at the Bandshell on May 27, headlined by Dead Phish Orchestra, whose music combines the sounds of the Grateful Dead and Phish. Live music and community performances take place throughout three different stages on each day of the festival. The full schedule of performances can be found online. We wanted to add a Friday night concert to expand the local acts that we’re able to feature and give another night of entertainment to the public.
Creekside for Kids, hosted by beloved kids’ performers Jeff and Paige will also be making a comeback this year. This family-friendly portion of the festival features kids’ concerts, face painting, kids’ yoga, bounce houses, a rock wall and educational puppet performances from Poppi’s Planet.
New to this year’s festival is the Street Wise Art Battle, a live painting competition in which 10 artists each paint a picnic bench that will be on display in Boulder throughout the year after the festival. Guests are invited to watch the artists compete on May 28 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The public will vote for their favorite bench throughout the weekend and the winning artist will get a prize.
Another exciting new addition to this year’s festival is the Queen of the Creek drag show presented by Venus Victrola on May 29 from 10-11 a.m. featuring several award-winning performers from around the state. Venus Victrola is currently reigning as Ms. Rocky Mountain Shining Star 2022 and performs as a local drag favorite across the Front Range. Boulder Creek Festival is proud to include incredible LGBTQ+ entertainers in this year’s lineup.
4. When you think about this summer’s festival in the context of the last two years, what does it represent to you?
Being able to produce this event at full steam this year is really incredible. We are so lucky to be able to be producing this event that we love so much. Before vaccinations, we were considering if we’d have to change professions altogether. The last two years weren’t kind to those of us whose job it is to get a lot of people together at one time. Our team is over the moon to be able to bring the community together and make this a celebration of all that is Boulder.
5. What else do you want more people to know?
Last year we introduced Creekside Beer Fest, which will continue this year and features lots of local breweries like Avery Brewing Company, Upslope Brewing Company, Wibby Brewing, Oskar Blues, Bootstrap Brewing, Uhl’s Brewing and many more! Sample unique craft beer, seltzers and ciders with all-inclusive tickets on Saturday or Sunday. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.