The Big Wonderful founder Josh Sampson describes his project this way: “It’s so much fun. Big fun. More fun. Ultimate fun.” Starting on May 21, the popular community marketplace will be held at The Stanley twice a month offering vendors, food trucks, family activities and live music. The concept for The Big Wonderful, which began in 2014 at 26th and Lawrence Streets, was to build community and feature local food and goods. It evolved into a place for people to start a small business, meet and be social, all with a festival vibe. “It’s community-oriented, fun-focused, community-focused and family-focused tied together in one location,” says Sampson.
With demand to expand The Big Wonderful to other parts of town, The Big Wonderful’s business model had to adjust and become mobile. The Big Wonderful at The Stanley will run the first and third Saturdays of the month, from noon to 8pm. It will be at the RiNo and Littleton locations on the third and fourth Saturdays. The same infrastructure familiar from the original location, including the giant wooden spool-tables, shipping containers, games and stage will move around to the other locations.
The Stanley’s larger, 3-acre space will allow for more yard games like corn hole, a bigger off-leash dog park and a sandpit for kids to play in. A tent in the center, surrounded by vendors, will provide shaded seating. “It’s such a beautiful little piece of land,” he says. “There’s a creek running through it and access to public bike and pedestrian trails and it will have The Stanley Marketplace—it’s an enhanced version of where we’ve been.”
Sampson is expecting approximately 100 vendors selling goods ranging from clothing to knife sharpening. There will also be 8 to 12 food trucks selling food from a variety of countries, in part to honor Aurora’s cultural scene. “I feel Aurora is one of the top food-diverse cities in the U.S. and we want to bring as much diverse food to The Big Wonderful as possible,” says Sampson. That includes kid-friendly, vegetarian and gluten-free options too. A Farmer’s Alley will carry high-end, curated, boutique foods Sampson says aren’t found at regular farmers markets.
The food piece of The Big Wonderful is part of a bigger picture revolving around a 2-acre community garden on The Stanley’s property Sampson hopes to create in 2017 with approximately 500 plots for rent. People will be able to grow food, even preparing and eating it on-site. Area restaurants will also participate, providing fresh, local ingredients to diners. “It’s one of the most exciting things coming up in conjunction with The Stanley,” says Sampson.
During The Big Wonderful’s Saturdays at The Stanley, music groups will play throughout the day, performing what Sampson refers to as “universal music” such as bluegrass and reggae, all fit for kids yet hip enough for adults. The direction of the music faces The Stanley’s building, away from homes, dispersing sound over 8 acres and ending by 8pm. “We want this to really work and everybody to be happy in Stapleton,” he says.
With 500 parking spots on The Stanley property, compared to 88 at their RiNo location, plus easy access by foot and bike, Sampson doesn’t foresee the need for people to have to park in the neighborhoods. In addition to hiring private security, Sampson has worked with the City of Aurora to have off-duty officers on-site. He is quick to point out that the RiNo location has a perfect record and has never had an issue with crime or safety. “The nature of the event is so peaceful,” says Sampson. “There’s so much positivity, it polices itself.”
“People think we’re some music festival but we’re not. We’re a community marketplace that has music,” says Sampson. “We’re really excited to come to Stanley and we’ve had great comments from people in Stapleton and Aurora. I felt we could do this anywhere but with the demographic of kids and everybody in Stapleton, I just think it’s tailor-made for the neighborhood.”