The Sunnyside Music Festival is a gathering held each year of locals within the community near midtown Denver which is staffed entirely by volunteers. As the summer starts coming to a close, these neighbours make one last stand to solidify the community they have spent so many years building. Each home in the area is asked to judge bands throughout the summer’s Battle of the Bands, the final 11 are given a chance to strut their stuff either on the main stage or in the biergarten.
This years festival was the greatest one to date, even after 10 years at least that is what we were told. The first headcount that we were able to get was in line with 14,000. There were not only people from the around the park itself but families brought friends, and friends brought even more friends. Minimum advertising like signage posted in about a mile radius and a Facebook page allowed for the community to build this event to whatever size they chose.
As for how the festival was set up, there was a great deal of time spent on planning as to ensure this would be a community based event. Everything from the beer served, local micro brew, to an activity intensive kids area were all put into place. Breckenridge Brewing Co. was brought in and even sponsored the event. There were other alcohol vendors and even included a tent selling Moscow Mules, with the copper cup to boot. The section that was designated as the biergarten merged with the kid area to create a seamless transition for the adults that would prefer to have a cocktail while they watched their children bounce on the portable trampoline. If there was a need to place your younger children in a safe zone while you went and danced to the traditional african music band then there was an area for that as well. Staffed by volunteers, children too young to be left alone for short periods of time were given an exciting tour through the play area, run through an obstacle course on large tricycles, or spend hour after hour in the bump and jump.
Local venders were also asked if they would like to be part of the festival and there was a wide range of different items to be received. A local yogurt shop was on hand selling frozen yogurt and even had the fluffy mascot out hugging kids and handing out vouchers for a free cup. Even in the 80 degree weather many from the community stopped in to talk with the store owner and try his new flavors. There were also local schools on hand with booths set up raising awareness for the different programs that were on the list to be cut due to funding lapses and fine arts cuts to the budget.
Artists were on showcase as there were three different tents dedicated to painting and even a set of doors that were acquired from a recent remodel of one of the houses, these doors were set up and paint was given to all those who felt a need to express their creative sides. As we watched the doors changed from a drab brown or cream color to a masterpiece of collective art as more than 200 little hands worked to remove the old and create something amazing. not just the fine arts were on display either, there were multiple tents set up that showed the awesome ingenuity of artisans and the multifaceted talents that can come from a human hand. Hand woven baskets, a local author of children’s books, and two different tents dedicated to airbrush tattoos and face painting.
One thing that communities around Colorado pride themselves on is the fact that Colorado is one of the most progressive states when it comes to being green. All around the grounds there were different trash bins staged. Not your normal trash bins, but at each station there were three different bags. A recycle bag for hard plastics, a compost bag for items that were not able to be recycled. And the dreaded trash bag. Just having the different bins was not enough, at each station there was a rotating crew that helped educate everyone that some of the items we normally throw away can actually be composted or recycled. Breckenridge Brewing Co. was very proud that the cups they were serving were made not from plastic that had to be recycled but rather a corn based product that was placed in the composting bins. After word got around that the cups didn’t need to be trashed but were actually aiding in lessening the impact of the event even the adults showed enthusiasm and starting moving trash themselves and talking with those around them who were making the same mistakes they had made earlier in the day. One observation that stuck with me the most was when the owner of the yogurt company saw that his cup was hanging above the trash bin. Once he noticed that his trash was setting the example of how not to be he made a pledge that next year his trash would not be trash. He would be setting the example of zero waste for the event.
I guess it is time to give a little background as to how I was invited to attend this event. We, my wife and I, are not from around the area but we were invited to help work the security for the event through Iraq Veterans Against the War. At one of the planning meetings for the festival the revelation came to light that no one had worked out who would be working security. Because this event was based solely on the community the planning committee was hesitant to pay for a police presents. Amanda, roommate to the Colorado organizer for IVAW, asked if veterans would be able to cover that area. The committee was ecstatic with this idea and expected to have at least 6 people brought in by IVAW. We showed up with 17 total and even helped out in the other areas such as Greening.
Through figuring out the plan after arriving in town, we had a few major roles at the festival. IVAW was charged with keeping the peace and making sure that the majority of people were able to maintain and stay safe throughout the event. Helping to reunite lost mothers with their children was the heaviest of roles and one that all should take seriously. At the security table, we also maintained the lost and found of items like phones, wallets, and purses. Over the course of the 9 hours we were able to gather 5 children and reunite them with their lost parents. No other issues arose during the event.
Although we were helping out with the festival, we as an organization were also able to help spread the word about issues faced by post 9/11 veterans. We were attempting to raise funds for the upcoming Afghanistan retreat, and in support of Operation Recovery we helped to spread our stories and learn more about the community we were there to support. We were even able to get one of our newest member and her husband, victims of the Aurora shooting, out to support the festival.
So all in all the Sunnyside Music Festival was a huge hit and created a fun and safe place for the community to settle their wild oats so to say as the summer was closing. Everything from the way that the community came together to enhance the lives of each other to the meticulous attention paid to how the waste of the event was handled was planned out ahead of time. Great care was taken to ensure that the gathering would go over without any problems and set the stage as an example of how we can gather, communicate, and regulate each other with outside influences.