Libations: Hard Cider Fest worth the quick trip to Paonia
IF YOU GO
What: 8th annual Hard Cider Fest
Where: Big B’s Delicious Orchards, Paonia
When: Oct. 25-27; grand tasting Oct. 26
Tickets: $40 for tasting; $75 VIP (which includes camping)
More info: bigbs.com
While the harvest is over and the moon has waned, there is still a celebration of the fall’s bounty worthy of a quick road trip and maybe one last overnight camp.
The eighth annual Hard Cider Fest in Paonia has just the right ingredients: local music, fruit at the peak of ripeness, orchard camping options and Colorado beverages for adults. Big B’s Delicious Orchards have been around since 1973, but it wasn’t until the past decade that they got into the hard cider and festival business.
The Fest starts with music on Friday night (Oct. 25) and runs through a Sunday brunch, but the biggie is Saturday. That’s when the Hard Cider Fest really kicks in with the grand tasting at noon (11 a.m. if you are VIP) until 4 p.m. and ciders from around the state. About 90 miles and less than two hours from Aspen, the drive to Paonia through the Crystal River Valley and over McClure Pass is exceptional no matter what time of year. The aspens have peaked, but the views snaking through the White River, Grand Mesa and Gunnison national forests on Highway 133 never grow tiresome.
And as you get closer to Paonia, you see the orchards and vineyards that fill the North Fork Valley. All weekend, pitching a tent or rolling up an RV, Big B’s makes for an easy camping spot in the valley.
There’s plenty of room with two big fields for camping, which about 100 folks used for last year’s festival.
Colorado ciders and cideries scheduled to be there this weekend include: C Squared, Stem and Colorado Cider Co. from Denver; Fenceline (Mancos); Apple Valley (Penrose); Snow Capped Cider (Austin, near Delta); St. Vrain (Longmont); Talbots (Palisade); Avalon (Jack Rabbit Hill Farm in Hotchkiss); and Crooked Stave pouring for Finnriver, Eden, Downeast, Schilling and Argus.
The music Saturday includes The Floodgate Operators (a bluegrass band from Crested Butte), Let Them Roar (the “progressive folk” band from Carbondale), Clifton Hanger (a local jam-band playing Grateful Dead covers) and Niceness (a Telluride reggae group).
The tasting is $40 and camping is $15 ($20 for RVs, no hookups). There is a “VIP enthusiasts” package, which for $75 includes the tasting (and starting an hour early at 11 a.m. ), camping, T-shirt and lunch.
If you just want to go for the music and atmosphere (and the big tree swings), that’s all free. Sunday’s brunch (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) includes an acoustic set from Clifton Hanger.
For more information, go to bigbs.com or for tickets go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4406481.
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