The big wonderful, a popular weekend festival that began in Curtis Park near Denver’s River North Art District (RiNo), will expand to the Stanley Marketplace in spring of 2016.
The warm-weather weekend festival featuring food trucks, a beer market, music and urban gardens will also expand to downtown Littleton. “We’ll probably do two festivals per month at the Stanley and one per month in RiNo and Littleton,” said Josh Sampson, who founded the festival in 2014.
Sampson said he started The Big Wonderful because he wanted a place to incubate new businesses, and because he wanted a centralized place to get world food. “The festival is a great place to start a business—it’s a low-cost and win-win opportunity for vendors to try out new ideas. New businesses don’t need pressure, they need creativity to bring their unique food, whether it’s grandma’s Thai recipe or your cousin’s French cooking. The more ideas, the better.”
The Big Wonderful welcomes an average of 100 food trucks and other vendors, hailing from as far away as Colorado Springs and Vail. Between 5,000 and 15,000 patrons attend on each festival day. “We get the larger numbers for opening and closing events,” said Sampson.
He said he expects attendance at the Stanley festival to be high, especially since the event will not be held every week.
Sampson said Stanley is a great fit for The Big Wonderful. “Mark [Shaker, a Stanley co-owner] and I are aligned on what the neighborhood needs and how to incubate small businesses. He’s building a home for us, so we’ll bring the positive energy.”
Mark Shaker approached Sampson last year about joining the businesses at the Stanley. “The Big Wonderful is about community, sustainability and fun. Those are some of the same core values at Stanley,” Shaker said.
“The Big Wonderful is a major family day outing,” said Sampson. “We encourage people to walk, bike or take the light rail, which will happen even more at Stanley.”
The Big Wonderful will occupy four acres on the Stanley site, including a two-acre urban farm. “I’m excited about getting the farm going because it’s important to educate people about farms, especially in urban areas,” said Sampson. “The farm will be biodynamic, which is beyond organic—it’s about paying attention to how nature works. Understanding nature’s cycle, we’ll use what we grow to feed the land, like a forest takes care of itself. Anybody will be welcome to learn and I hope The Big Wonderful food purveyors will use the food.”
Sampson said the “heartbeat” of the festival will be live music. He plans to host musicians in many genres, including bluegrass, rock, reggae and world music.
Outdoor festivals with amplified music can run into concerns from nearby residential neighbors, and The Big Wonderful is no exception. Alenka Han, a mother of two who lives five blocks west of the Stanley, is concerned about the noise and increased traffic near her home. “I value our quiet neighborhood,” Han said. “So I talked to Mr. Shaker and he was reassuring that they’re trying to create a family-friendly environment and are sensitive to the neighborhood’s concerns. He said he went to the Big Wonderful in RiNo and that it usually shut down by 7:30 or 8pm. He’s thinking they’ll probably have similar hours here, but they haven’t nailed that down yet. He also said that there will only be pedestrian access from the west and north, with vehicle access only on the south and east sides. So, we’re not likely to get a lot of traffic on our street. The Stanley people have been responsive to my concerns, and I’m now more optimistic that this won’t be some wild party going on until all hours every weekend.”
Sampson says festivals are on the rise. “It’s a nice way to get off your cell phone and get to know people. Everything is in the spirit of fun.”
Why is it called The Big Wonderful?
“It was my first guess at a name. I tried hundreds of others after that, but ‘The Big Wonderful’ stuck.”