We’re back, baby: May 2021 is the tipping point for Denver concerts, events and festivals

May seems to continually bring good news for Denver’s beleaguered arts and culture scene, which finally has enough stability to see more than a few feet (or months) ahead of itself.

Major venue operators have ticked up audience sizes on a weekly basis, following relaxed state and city guidance, with some hoping to return to full, pre-COVID capacities next month. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which increases from 6,300 to its typical 9,500-person capacity on June 21, is the beacon.

Yes, there are vaccinations, shifting health rules, and other vexing issues to consider. But can we just acknowledge how beautiful this moment is? City Park Jazz is alive. Levitt Pavilion and Red Rocks are already hosting thousands. Band shells and parks are filling up with dance, opera and theater.

“We are excited to see the state opening up,” said Deborah Jordy, executive director of SCFD, the seven-county metro area tax district that funds hundreds of arts and culture nonprofits. “Cultural organizations in the seven counties (are) able to engage more of the community at in-person events.”

Jordy and her cohorts hope to update their wildly popular Free Days calendar soon; see the latest at scfd.org/find-culture/free-days. Here’s a curated list of other encouraging cultural news this week, led by reopened venues and returning (or new) events through September.

Swallow Hill Music

Folk institution Swallow Hill Music is bringing back in-house shows this fall at its home base (71 E. Yale Ave.) and producing this summer’s previously announced “Evenings al Fresco” at Denver Botanic Gardens. Also heartening: The return of the Shady Grove Picnic Series, a thoughtfully booked music showcase at Four Mile Historic Park (715 S. Forest St.). The park itself is a tidy jewel, featuring Denver’s oldest standing structure, a working farm, and one of the city’s best Independence Day celebrations. Shady Grove runs through August. After that, most Swallow Hill concerts return to the cozy Daniels Hall and the Tuft Theatre. fourmilepark.org or swallowhillmusic.org for schedules and tickets.

The Butterfly Pavilion

Westminster’s Butterfly Pavilion — the world’s first accredited invertebrate zoo — is known for lots of little things, but its star attraction is Rosie the Tarantula, a Chilean visitor from the Atacama Desert. Kids and their freaked-out parents can gently pet her again starting May 28, when the pavilion begins offering “Rosie Returns” ticket packages with discounted admission and a Rosie plushie. (It’s not necessary to pet Rosie, however.) The Butterfly Pavilion is also extending its hours to 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and, though they’re encouraged, dropping reservation requirements starting May 28. 6252 W. 104th Ave. in Westminster. butterflies.org

Lakewood Cultural Center

Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra is providing one of the latest, and best, examples of the hybrid live/virtual concert with its June 6 performance at the Lakewood Cultural Center. The “Basie, Blues and More!” program, with direction by Art Bouton and Drew Zaremba, will be live-streamed along with an in-theater performance at 470 S. Allison Parkway in Lakewood. Visit lakewood.org/tickets for more events, including the center’s jam-packed Sounds Exciting! series.

Silverthorne Arts Stroll

The town of Silverthorne’s annual Art Stroll series return to Blue River Trail on June 20, July 25 and Aug. 22 from noon to 3 p.m., town officials announced. As with many art walks, it’s all about local artist vendors and entertaining perks — in this case, live music, food and beverages. silverthorne.org

Commons Park

The historic 19th Street Bridge in Lower Downtown (at 19th and Platte streets) has been a favorite setting for free concerts that mingle downtown residents and visitors. It returns as an outdoor stage with Riverfront Park’s Summer Sessions series. The free, family-friendly, monthly events begin June 24 and run through September, with on-site food, adult drinks and art displays. Visit riverfrontparkevents.com for the yet-to-be-announced lineup.

Juneteenth Black Pride

Teased a couple of weeks back, Denver’s first-ever Juneteenth Black Pride events are taking place alongside Five Points’ Juneteenth Music Festival — and just a week before The Center’s Denver Pride 2021 events. Produced by YouthSeen, which supports mental health and safety for LGBTQ youths of color, the free festival includes a “Gospel Brunch Drag Show” with original “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Bebe Zahara Benet, a rooftop radio show at The Drop 104.7-FM, the “Strange Fruit of Black Excellence Ball” at Denver Botanic Gardens, silent disco, club nights and more. Full details on the June 17-20 events at youthseen.org and blackpridedenver.com.

Boulder International Film Festival

As Denver Film’s constantly sold-out Film on the Rocks series has proven, beautiful outdoor venues (in its case, Red Rocks) make for magical screenings. The Boulder International Film Festival, running June 24-27, will officially open on June 25 at one of these — Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium — with the local premiere of director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul (… or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” It’s preceded by a Green Carpet Gala, and followed by more outdoor cinema at Boulder High’s soccer field (bring-your-own-chair events), a virtual version June 24-July 3, and limited-capacity indoor screenings at Century Theaters. The lineup is forthcoming at biff1.com.

Anythink Backyard Concert Series

Thornton’s Anythink Libraries provide free programming year-round, but we’re happy to see its Backyard Concert Series, which was forced to go virtual for 2020, remains intact. This year’s free, family-friendly programming, which returns to Anythink Wright Farms next month, includes The Reminders (June 11), SuperMagick (July 9) and Bison Bone (Aug. 13). Concerts also will be broadcast on Anythink’s Facebook and YouTube accounts. 5877 E. 120th Ave. in Thornton. anythinklibraries.org

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Expanded play hours at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus have arrived with regularity in recent weeks — now updated to run 8:30 a.m.-noon and 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. But perhaps the best news is the addition of Sunday hours starting in June, effectively doubling the popular spot’s weekend capacity. Reservations for June 2-13 sessions opened this week at mychildsmuseum.org/safer-play

Museum of Outdoor Arts

Greenwood Village’s Museum of Outdoor Arts will open its newly renovated Marjorie Park with a free, family-friendly celebration, noon to 4 p.m. June 12. The 2-acre park, featuring more than 40 artworks, is also hosting ongoing music, art and fitness events through the summer, with local food available for purchase. Registration is required at moaonline.org/events. Regular hours and a new membership program will return soon, officials said. The park is on the north side of Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre at 6331 S. Fiddlers Green Circle in Greenwood Village.

Denver Pride

Denver Pride organizers had previously announced a limited, 2021 return for June 26 and 27, with individual “Pride Hubs” filling in for Civic Center park’s postponed PrideFest. But we only recently got details about the June 26 Pride 5K in Cheeseman Park, and the Coors Light-sponsored Virtual Denver Pride Parade (applications at denverpride.org/pridefest/parade). Event producer The Center on Colfax is also offering music, food, movies, kids’ events, pool parties and more at venues such as JCC Denver, The Center on Colfax, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Film’s Sie FilmCenter and Hamburger Mary’s. New this week: The Center dropped reservation requirements for all events. Visit denverpride.org for full details.

The Ride Festival

Telluride’s Ride Festival is going the way of other events that have spread out their performances over a few days and multiple venues. This year’s mountain-friendly lineup includes Warren Haynes, Rival Sons, Citizen Cope, Matt Berninger (of The National), Donavon Frankenreiter, Big Something, Black Pistol Fire and others. The July 2-11 festival takes place across seven venues in downtown Telluride, organizers said. ridefestival.com

A Taste of Colorado

Like Denver Pride, 2021’s A Taste of Colorado will break into smaller, geographically separated bits for the sake of safety and public comfort. Normally attracting hundreds of thousands to the area surrounding Civic Center park, the 38th event this year is focused exclusively on Denver food and local artists, Sept. 4-6, at various locations downtown. The Downtown Denver Partnership has given restaurateurs, muralists and musicians a June 1 deadline to apply for the event. Schedule and participants are forthcoming at atasteofcolorado.com.

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