Even as Denver’s COVID-ravaged arts scene continues to err on the side of caution, programmers have grown increasingly bold about returning to stages later this year, based on new plans for some of the the Front Range’s most popular events.
On the down side, organizers of the Five Points Jazz Festival last week said they would cancel the physical festival again in 2021 due to safety concerns about the free, outdoor, multi-stage event. That robs one of Denver’s oldest urban neighborhoods of its annual influx of visitors (and their cash) that business owners no doubt desperately need right now.
“The most recent in-person Five Points Jazz Festival hosted more than 100,000, and we already know that type of in-person event can’t take place,” said Tariana Navas-Nieves, director of cultural affairs at Denver Arts & Venues (the festival’s producer), in a press statement. “Instead, we’re looking forward to unique ways to support this vibrant community both culturally and economically.”
Those ways were not spelled out, but the city’s recent history of supporting Five Points seems likely to continue. Many festival committee members, who live and work within the historically Black neighborhood, also benefit from the grants, historic designations and city-led marketing efforts Five Points has enjoyed over the last decade — roughly parallel to the rise of the jazz fest’s popularity and Denver’s pre-pandemic construction boom.
Last year, organizers presented a stripped-down, virtual festival on May 16.
“We remain committed to celebrating the cultural heritage of Five Points,” said Ginger White Brunetti, executive director of Denver Arts & Venues. “We’re confident that revenues and live events will return, but right now, the uncertainty of timelines for recovery make planning for events of this scale really difficult.”
Watch for updates about the event at artsandvenuesdenver.com.
On the upside, Colorado Ballet artistic director Gil Boggs last week announced a surprisingly normal-looking 2021-2022 artistic season. Banking on widespread vaccinations and public comfort with indoor events, Boggs said the state’s largest dance nonprofit would return to live, indoor performances at downtown’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the fall.
“I am elated and hopeful today…” Boggs wrote in a Feb. 12 press statement. “Words cannot express how much we are all looking forward to getting back into the theater to perform, and back in front of our audiences.”
Colorado Ballet will produce eight performances of “Giselle” Oct. 8-17; a refreshed “The Nutcracker” to celebrate Denver’s 60th annual performance of the holiday classic, Nov. 27-Dec. 24 (not counting last year’s absence, of course); Derek Deane’s “Romeo and Juliet” (Feb. 4-13, 2022); “The Wizard of Oz,” March 11-20, 2022; and finally, “Ballet MasterWorks,” from April 15-24, 2022. Updates will be announced at coloradoballet.org.
Boulder’s Bluebird Music Festival, which also went virtual last year, announced it would return to the University of Colorado’s Mackey Auditorium, Sept. 25 and 26, with an impressive lineup of folk, indie and Americana stars, including Jeff Tweedy, phoffman (of Greensky Bluegrass), Jade Bird, Rayland Baxter, Molly Tuttle, Otis Taylor, Trout Steak Revival and others.
Despite the pandemic, the event is set to grow beyond its last in-person incarnation, in 2019.
“The festival has expanded to two full days and four events,” organizers wrote. “There will be two main evening events and two afternoon Strings & Stories events. … Though signs seem to be pointing toward a safe event environment by the fall, our priority is protecting both your health and your wallet.”
Organizers said they’re working with state and CU health officials to follow safety protocols, which could include reduced capacity. If that’s the case, people who purchased their tickets first will receive priority admission while all other tickets will be refunded.
“We will not make you use your ticket for a future date, so that there is no risk of purchasing your tickets today,” organizers wrote, noting that passes are now on sale ranging from $29 to $199 at bluebirdmusicfestival.org.
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