Party on, 50th anniversary of Carnation Fest was the best

Matthew Van Deventer
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 8/12/19

This year marks the city's 50th anniversary and the annual Carnation Festivalat Anderson Park did not disappoint in celebration. Over the span of three days, 16 bands rocked their respective stages. …

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Party on, 50th anniversary of Carnation Fest was the best

Posted

This year marks the city's 50th anniversary and the annual Carnation Festival at Anderson Park did not disappoint in celebration. Over the span of three days, 16 bands rocked their respective stages. The Zoppe Family Circus had acrobats dangling from aerial props and tightropes, riders hanging off horses racing in the circular pen in the middle of their tent, and of course, clowns were bumbling about. A spaghetti dinner was dished out by Pietra's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant. Food trucks decorated the parking lot with delicious smells and sporadic plumes of steam drifting towards the sky and patrons could freshen their cup at the beer garden. There was a parade on Saturday after the pancake breakfast, an art show both days, and a car show on Sunday. 

Down the main strip, leading guests from the entrance, vendors set up under tents showcased their best products like handmade soaps, peaches, solar panels, and glow in the dark swords as well as their practiced skills like face painting. 

And right after the golden hour, strolling through Anderson Park, it was easy to forget all worries. Through the row of vendors, the illuminating lights from the carnival food, rides and games acted as beacon for fun. The Ferris wheel towers over the entire event, sort of like a mecca for party-goers. And of course, each night, as the clock neared 9:15, everyone would make their way to the fence of the baseball field, stake claim to a plot of comfy green grass for a front-row seat for a spectacular fireworks show.

Michael Crotty moved to Wheat Ridge in 1973 and as a 15-year old he "thought the (Carnation Festival) was about flowers" and didn’t go because of that. Ten years ago he finally went and came to realize it was much much more than that. "It is a celebration of the city's history," he said. Crotty has been to the festival every year since.

The festival’s name does have its roots in flowers. In the 1960s, according to the festival's website, Wheat Ridge had 32 different carnation growers and every Monday some of those flowers were sent to the White House. Wheat Ridge was pinned with the nickname “Carnation City.”

And it's well-known that Wheat Ridge was built by farmers. Crotty, who is a machinist and a walking history textbook of Wheat Ridge, claimed that at one point Applewood grew apples for the mines in Idaho Springs and other parts of the city grew wheat for them.

Wheat Ridge High School was well-represented at the festival as well.

“It gets them out in the community,” said Claire Haas Claveau, one of Wheat Ridge High School’s Pom Squad moms. Dressed in their Pom Squad attire and face paint, the girls were out slinging glow-in-the-dark necklaces for a buck. The event is one of their biggest fundraising efforts of the year. 

“It’s a fun way to get out and make some money,” continued Haas Claveau. 

Next to them, the students of Wheat Ridge High School’s STEM program, or Science Technology Engineering and Math, were sporting their pride and joy: a racecar. 90 percent of it was built at the high school including the carbon fiber frame, wiring, and machining.

A member of the group, Ali Helton, said the festival is “a way to reach out to the community and showcase what we do here.” Last year the car placed second to the University of Alberta at the Shell Eco-Marathon in Sonoma, California, competing against big teams like Duke University. 

Vendors seemed to be fairing well too. CBD company Hemp Hearts was posted up answering questions about the increasingly popular product. Co-owner Andre Tocia said they moved into a space that had been occupied by a business for more than 40 years, so breaking into the community has been a challenge and the Carnation Festival was proving helpful. 

“(The Carnation Festival) has been great,” said Tocia. “A lot of interest and questions. It’s been great to educate people,” He estimates more than 200 people visited his tent over the weekend. 

But most people were at the festival purely for the fun, a nearby getaway. Dominic Bronk doesn't even live in Wheat Ridge but he's been to the Carnation Festival the last three years since he was a freshman in high school he said, having just gotten off the haunted house ride. "The city of Wheat Ridge brings us back here," he mused. 

Abby Hobbs of Arvada came for the circus and the fireworks with her three children and husband in tow, biding their time perusing the vendors. However, one of them was already tuckered out hours before the display. "It's fun if you like this kind of thing," she said. 

Happy anniversary, Carnation Festival. 

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