Carbondale Mountain Fair mushrooms with the times |

Carbondale Mountain Fair mushrooms with the times

Katharine Weiss
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” Sprung from the mind of “a bunch of hippies” 37 years ago, Carbondale’s Mountain Fair celebrates another year this weekend.

Carbondale’s use of alternative-fuel sources, for example, embodies the event’s “New Frontier” theme, said fair director Amy Kimberly. The fair also will embrace that spirit with activities such as a pedal-powered smoothie machine, in which people can blend organic fruit by riding a (presumably stationary) bicycle.

Other activities will include wood splitting, pie baking and horse-shoe contests. But don’t expect to walk home with any glamorous prizes, Kimberly said.

“The prize for all of the contests is the honor of winning,” she said. “For some contests we give away ribbons and T-shirts, but there is no big money. However, there can only be one wood-splitting champion.”

For art lovers, more than 125 arts and crafts booths will be on hand.

“There are affordable pieces of art [and] high-end pieces,” Kimberly said, adding that a new gallery area this year will feature the work of valley artists.

Saturday’s musical performers include Chris Bank and the Aspen Jazz Camp, Fishtank Ensemble with guests The Illumini Orchestra, Lip Bone Redding and Mazri Nar Fire and Belly Dance Troupe. On Sunday, the Colorado Ambassadors, Kort McCumber and McCumberland Gap, The Redtones, The Chicao Afrobeat Project and The Clumsy Lovers will perform.

Organizers expect crowds of up to 20,000 for the entire weekend.

“A lot of people that used to live in the valley come back every year for the fair,” Kimberly said. “High school reunions are typically hosted during Mountain Fair. Once you’ve been [to the fair] you always want to come back.”

While the fair has honed a reputation as a hippie attraction, Kimberly said there isn’t a typical Mountain Fair attendee.

“A lot of the Latino community comes out,” she said. “We have Latino music, we have rock-n-roll, we have kids, and we have people that come out just to appreciate the art. We have a wide cross-section of the valley.”

And the volunteers are what make Mountain Fair tick. What makes Mountain Fair great, Kimberly said, is the spirit in which it was started and still remains today: the volunteerism spirit.

“It takes [more than] 300 volunteers for this event to happen,” she said. “People have been volunteering for 37 years, and a lot of new people throw in their energy as well.”

The large number of loyal volunteers has created some issues in the past. The biggest controversy has to do with the pie and cake judges, some of whom have been judges for more than 20 years.

“We want to switch the judges, and let others get a chance, but the judges don’t like to give up their spots,” Kimberly said

Every fair is different, she said, noting that in 2004 ball lightning came down the electric line during a Yonder Mountain String Band performance.

“The fireball exploded on the stage, and the electricity went out,” Kimberly said. “Yonder Mountain String Band [played] acoustically the rest of the night, and the community rallied.”

This year the fair is hopefully opening up with something different.

“The monks are coming down for the opening blessing for the fair,” Kimberly said. “We’ve never had Tibetan monks before.”

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