DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: Annual Aurora cultural arts fest runs June 24-25

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    For the first time in its six-year history, the annual Aurora Cultural Arts District arts festival will be serving up a double dose of food, drink and culture on East Colfax Avenue this weekend.

    The sixth-annual ACAD arts fest is storming into Fletcher Plaza beside the Martin Luther King Jr. Library from noon-8 p.m. on both June 24 and June 25. This year marks the first time in the festival’s short history that events will be held over the course of two days.

    Also new at this year’s gathering, attendees will be able to pay for a turn on several small carnival rides for children.

    “Hallelujah,” Satya Wimbish, president of the ACAD board of directors, said of landing rides at the festival.

    A longtime ACAD board member and owner of the nearby Collection Gallery on East Colfax, Wimbish said she’s been trying to get rides at the event since it began.

    “It’s only taken, like, all of these years for it to happen,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s not going to be huge to start, but it is a big deal. It’s one other goal that’s been checked off — hopefully people like it.”

    On top of rides, the festival will feature two small stages and a bevy of performances over the course of the weekend. Performers include local bands 40 Below Zero and Siveria, dancers from Academia de Ballet Folklorico Nezahualcoyotl and a bundle of visual artists. Work from artists at the RedLine Contemporary Art Center, AjaiArt, 3D-PT, Lapis Ligna Designs, Jiacuy Roche Universal Creative Expressions, EastLosArte, and others, will be on display.

    The Vintage Theatre, located just a few blocks down from the library, will be performing selected scenes from its upcoming production of “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.”

    More than just art, food trucks will be hawking goodies, and beer from Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Company will be available for sale.

    The budget for this year’s festival was slightly less than the $12,500 pot the festival had at its disposal last year, according to Tracy Weil, managing director of the arts district. He said the decrease was due to a confluence of factors, including fewer corporate sponsorships. This year, the city of Aurora, Citywide Bank and the Denver Foundation are all supporting the event, Wimbish said.

    The festival provides yet another opportunity to note the district’s slow trudge toward rebirth from a nefarious epicenter of grit to a bustling bohemian corridor, according to both Weil and Wimbish.

    “It’s one piece of the puzzle that will help us kind of keep the momentum going as far as promoting the arts and culture in the district,” Weil said.

    He said more than 130,000 people passed through the district last year, and as many as 150,000 visitors are expected to swing through the urban corridor this year.

    “We’re slowly giving artists and performers the opportunity to be active and showcase what they do in the community and I would like to keep building upon that,” Wimbish said.

    She added that she’s optimistic a new festival slated to take place in the district later this summer, the ACAD’s Colorado Immigrant Festival — or IMMIFEST for short — will keep people in the district throughout the season.

    “We’re going to have something going on all summer … so it’s nice we’re able to provide some ongoing activity and slowly create ways to integrate the community,” Wimbish said.

    The festival will feature a different culture with a gathering at the ACAD gallery on Dallas Street the morning of the fourth Saturday of each month from July through October, according to a press release. The first gathering will center on various African cultures, according to Weil.

    Despite the additional events and visitors coming to the district, City Councilwoman Sally Mounier, whose Ward I encompasses the ACAD, said there are still arts district naysayers, both on and off city council.

    “Council, in my view, thinks that the arts district is just some neighborhood artists, but it’s not — it’s for everybody, including the people who live in Denver, Centennial and Fort Collins,” she said. “It’s for everyone’s enjoyment and pleasure. So I’ve got some work that I’ve got to do on city council. I’ve got to do a better job of convincing them of the value of this.”