Contestants will use white lumina pumpkins for the 18th annual Punkin Chunkin event this weekend on Monday Oct. 05, 2015 at Arapahoe Park.
Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

Between erratic prices for flights, absent rental cars and myriad pandemic unknowns, you’re probably finding yourself among the growing number of folks looking at yet another fall stay-cation this year. Fret not. This is going to be fun.

It’s sometimes easy to forget we live in a place millions of people flock to for vacation. And despite the pandemic raining on the usual fall parade of festivities, some modifications and new additions will have you happily exploring from your home base.

Sentinel staffers offer this smattering of events, shows and fall-flung festivities to let you enjoy what many consider the best time of the year in the best place to experience it.

FALL FESTS AND HALLOWEEN GATHERINGS

Fall Festival and Pumpkin Patch at Southlands

10 a.m. – noon. Oct. 22 – 24 at Southlands shopping center, 6155 S. Main St. 

While some residents of the metro area have already stenciled out their design and nabbed the perfect gourd for their front porch, others of us — cough, everyone at Sentinel Colorado, cough — realize certain holidays are arriving a tad later. As in, typically the day-of and in a coffee-induced anxiety hole. Luckily, the folks at Aurora’s Southlands shopping center will have our backs next month with their late-in-the-season pumpkin patch starting on Oct. 22. The outdoor mall will be offering an array of orange fruit and photo opportunities for tykes from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. all weekend, with an additional trick-or-treat trail on Saturday. So start planning how you’ll carve the ideal pumpkin now before nabbing your canvas at Southlands next month. (Or just show up pretending to know what day it is. That works, too.)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Pop-up Pumpkin Patches – Aurora

Thursdays in October at various Aurora parks. 3pm-5pm, free, register at www.auroragov.org/events 

Pumpkin patches, the reason for the season, are crowded and far and the parking is awful and everybody is overheating in seasonably fashionable flannel. Luckily, there’s a better way, and the City of Aurora already has it all planned out. Aurora’s pop-up pumpkin patches skip all of the parts of the annual trek you wish you could avoid, so that you can get to the best part much quicker: carving uneven faces in those globular gourds. Visit a number of Aurora parks throughout October to pick up a pumpkin and a carving kit. Make sure to register first, staffers say they expect to run out quickly.  

Boos Cruise – Aurora

Oct. 29. Aurora Sports Park, 19300 E. Colfax Ave. Registration information is posted at auroragov.org/events

Grab your favorite bi-holed bedsheet or other spooky ephemera, because the Halloween season is once again nearly upon us, ghouls and goblins of Aurora. While the city’s celebrated Punkin Chunkin’ celebration of flying gourds is once again shelved this year due to the pandemic, officials are making up for the lack of autumnal cheer with a drive-thru trunk-or-treating event at the end of October. A smattering of vendors will be giving out sweets and other delights, to many a dentist’s delight. Although we’ll certainly miss the trebuchets flinging fruit on the city’s eastern peripheries, a sleeve or two of Starbursts will do instead. Dibs on the yellows.

All events at Cherokee Ranch & Castle  – Sedalia

Douglas County’s iconic castle has a lineup of fun and spooky activities this fall. First, grab your skinny ties and black dresses for a Sinatra tribute show on Saturday, Oct. 2 (tickets $79.50). If the outdoors are more your style, there are several evenings in September and October where you can enjoy a picnic dinner on the grounds and watch (and hear) the elk, which are bugling in full force in search of mates (dates vary, tickets $40). There are also several scenic hikes on offer where you can explore the backcountry surrounding the castle. And to truly get into the Halloween spirit, on Oct. 28 the castle is hosting a dessert with Edgar Allan Poe, where scholar and actor David Skipper will perform as Poe in a dramatic monologue, and read his eerie short story “The Masque of the Red Death” — that’s guaranteed to be a festive evening, but not one for the faint of heart (Thurs. Oct. 28 7:30 p.m, tickets $45).

Haunted Field of Screams 

7 p.m. to 12 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays throughout October; 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and the last two Thursdays of October. 10451 McKay Road in Thornton. Tickets start at $30. Visit hauntedfieldofscreams.com for more information. 

Ah, yes, that magical time of year when brave souls pay gobs of shekels to made-up gremlins tasked with scaring the bejesus out of gobsmacked patrons. What a world. Several area Halloween events are on hold yet again this year, including Denver’s Zombie Crawl, but the ever-terrifying Haunted Field of Screams is returning this year, with quick-footed and chainsaw-toting hobgoblins galore. You can feel your palms getting sweaty already, can’t you? Thought so, wimps. Also: The outfit up north is still looking for various staffers to man the events next month, so if you know any security personnel or “pumpkin watchers” looking for seasonal work, head to hautnedfieldofscreams.com.

MORE EVENTS AND OUTDOOR HAPPENINGS

Cheese-fueled food fests in Denver

Denver Grilled Cheese fest: 144 W. Colfax Ave., Denver. Sessions at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Visit denvergrilledcheesefest.com for more information. Denver Mac & Cheese Festival: York Street Yards, RiNo. Sessions at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Search for the event on Facebook for more information. 

It’s a universal truth that everything tastes better with cheese, and the carb-filled staples of pasta and bread are at the top of the list of comestibles that benefit from zippy cultures produced with rennet. (Sorry lactose intolerants of Aurora.) Luckily, a pair of food fests are returning to Denver this year in honor of those very such pairings. First, the Denver Grilled Cheese fest will feature a smattering of artisanal sandwiches at the McNichols Building in Denver in October, the proceeds of which will benefit a charity group run by none other than Dolly Parton. And a month later, area foodies can head to the state capital’s buzziest arts district for gobs of noodles, cheese and a veritable cornucopia of fixin’s. So grab your tasting fork and your favorite bib — you do own bibs, don’t you — and prepare for a cheesy bender this fall.

Movies in the Park – Aurora 

Thursday evenings through the end of September, $2, various locations, visit www.auroragov.org for more details.

The transition from summer to fall is just about the best weather in Colorado, and it only lasts a few weeks if we’re lucky. Soak it up while you can with a movie in the park and a food truck dinner at some of Aurora’s best outdoor spots. Grab the blankets and a sweatshirt just in case; it may get a little chilly. The remaining offerings this year include Pixar’s “Soul” at Mission Viejo Park on Sept. 23, and the seminal 1980s flick “The Goonies” at Red-tailed Hawk Park on Sept. 30. The two flicks may have been made 35 years apart, but both provide a welcome antidote to the ever-churning carousel of TikTok and Twitter. Call us old fashioned, but sometimes it’s just nice to sit down with a single screen with a single narrative for a couple hours, OK?

Clean up A-Town 

8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sept. 25. Free. Meet at the People’s Building, 9995 E. Colfax Ave. and email [email protected] 

It feels good to do good. And lord knows Aurora has a serious problem with trash and plastic bits fluttering down streets in the wind. It’s not poetic — we’re looking at you, “American Beauty” — and it’s not hygienic for us or the penguins in “Happy Feet.” The artists at the People’s Building on Colfax know the deal, and they’re putting their wheels in motion. Join them and help clean up Original A-Town along East Colfax Avenue. If you miss this one, they’ve pledged to hit the streets consistently at the end of every month. To get involved, email [email protected] And remember, one of the top live-streams on Reddit these days is a guy who attaches a GoPro to a Trash Grabber and whistles in the wind. This could be you, people. 

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park (FILE PHOTO)

Elk Fest – Estes Park

Oct 2-3, Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 10am – 4pm, www.estesparkeventscomplex.com

For more than 12 million years, elk (or their ancestors) have called Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park home. But to be more specific, the mammals made their reintroduction in 1913 after a period in the late 1800s when overhunting led to their demise. Today, a herd of about 30 elk preside over the town, attracting tourists from all over the world hoping to catch a note of that pitchy bugle synonymous with autumn in the Rockies. You can be among them, and with a festival to boot. The weekend-long festival dedicated to the mountain town’s infamous residents is set to feature a film on the herd’s history, animal demos and a bugling contest, so you’d better start practicing now. We’re sure your neighbors will not mind. 

FieldHouse USA Grand Opening

1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at Fieldhouse USA, 14200 E. Alameda Ave. Free. Search for the event on Facebook for additional information. 

The Tokyo Olympics may be over, but the allure of sport is still very much in the air in Aurora this fall. “Having three Washington Prime Group assets recently selected as FieldhouseUSA locations is akin to proudly standing upon the highest podium with my teammates … as an Olympic gold medal dangles tantalizingly around my muscular shoulders and chest while the national anthem majestically trumpets our victory,” Lou Conforti, CEO of the company that owns the Town Center at Aurora mall, said in a press release shortly after plans for the new sporting complex Fieldhouse USA were announced almost two years ago. The hulking new facility is finally expected to open next month with a ribbon cutting featuring free admission, face painting, music and other celebratory ephemera associated with ringing in the Next Best Thing. See you on the pickleball court, losers. 

Fresh out of the roaster at Crites’ family farm in Pueblo, real-deal Pueblo chilis.

 Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival

3 p.m. – midnight. Sept. 24; 10 a.m. – midnight. Sept. 25; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sept. 26 in Downtown Pueblo. $5 admission. Visit www.pueblochilefestival.com for more information.

Forget pumpkins because the real spice of the season comes from a roasted Pueblo chile, a treat far meatier than its southern counterpart and best accompanied by a fat bowl of frijoles. Back in full force this year, the Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival captures everything we love about the season’s comfort foods: stove hot, spicy hot and roasted with love. This year’s affair, just a few hours drive south, features a jalapeño eating contest, a chihuahua parade, a salsa showdown, and, of course, the famous farm stands that grow and roast the star attraction. While you’re getting those peppers roasted, look for the stand that’s serving up a fresh tortilla, cheese and Pueblo chile. You won’t regret it.

Dry Dock Brewing Company’s Sweet 16 

1 p.m. Oct. 16, Dry Dock Brewing Company’s North dock, 2801 Tower Rd. Tickets start at $40. Visit drydock-sweet16.eventbrite.com for more information.

They sure grow up so fast, don’t they? Dry Dock Brewing Company, Aurora’s longtime purveyors of local suds, is celebrating 16 years in the biz next month, complete with bespoke beer and seltzer tastings, arcade games, DJs, food and much more. This crew has been around since the very beginning of the craft beer boom in the metroplex, offering both brews and the supplies DIY-types need to create their own garage-bound concoctions via their BrewHut on Hampden. This particular birthday extravaganza will be held at the brewery’s hulking production facility on Tower Road, so be sure to head there to partake in the festivities — you don’t want to be the sad sack all alone at the original Hampden location while everyone else is enjoying the revelry a few miles to the north.

The Brew Hut and the Dry Dock tasting room are still open during construction on Thursday April 07, 2016 at Brew Hut.
Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

Butterfly Pavilion 26th Anniversary Celebration | Westminster

6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Oct. 1 The Establishment at Bradburn Village 11885 Bradburn Boulevard, Westminster. General ticket $150, virtual ticket $35

The Butterfly Pavilion is hosting a big night out to celebrate some of the earth’s smallest creatures. Head to Westminster on Oct. 1 for an evening featuring a Q&A with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert, live and silent auctions, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and “animal experiences.” Those attending virtually can watch the Q&A and participate in the silent action from home (sadly, animal encounters are in-person only). 

Farmers Market at Southlands

8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Every Saturday through the end of September. Southlands Shopping Center, on East State Street between the Eddie Bauer and Kay Jewelers. Visit the Southlands Facebook page for more information.

The temperatures may finally be cooling, well sort of, but the allure of local farmers markets continue. Rows of bespoke vendors are still lining the streets of Southlands shopping center in south Aurora every gosh darn Saturday through the end of the month, so you’ve still got a chance to snag a tasteful crimson heirloom or pick up some handcrafted soap before the season is over. The bazaar is operational from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. To order produce ahead for curbside pickup, visit thelocalcolorado.localfoodmarketplace.com. 

Various programs at the Plains Conservation Center

Times and dates vary throughout September and October at the Plains Conservation Center, 21901 E. Hampden Ave. Entry for many events is $12 per person. Visit the Plains Conservation Center Facebook page for more information, or catalog.botanicgardens.org for more information. 

Contrary to much public opinion, there is life, and plenty of it, along Aurora’s eastern plains. Perhaps you’d like to take your tyke to an educational workshop focused on creepy crawlers or spooky critters (it would be rather apropos of you, given the season and all), or maybe you’d like to take in the full beaver moon during a blissed-out hike on Nov. 19? You can do all of that and more — including workshops on prairie dogs, crepuscular creatures and naturalism — at the Plains Conservation Center this fall, an often-overlooked gem co-managed by the City of Aurora and Denver Botanic Gardens. Halloween-themed crafts will also be available, so come steeled to let those creative juices — and glitter — fly.

ART AND THEATER

Hundred Days at the Aurora Fox

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. Sundays. The Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave. 

When something is described as a “folk-punk musical,” you officially have our attention. That’s the moniker being given to the latest mainstage show at the Aurora Fox, which features a retrospective and musical take on the genesis of a relationship between protagonists Shaun and Abigail, who simultaneously find themselves wondering how they would lead their lives if they only had 100 days to spend on this tiny spinning orb. Nick Sugar, who scored at the theater with a run of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” several years ago, takes the directorial reins of the show that first premiered in January 2017. The turn at the Fox is running through Oct. 10. Some adult language may make the show unsuitable for young children. 

on Thursday Oct. 15, 2015 at Aurora Fox Theater.
Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

[email protected]” at the People’s Building 

7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, The People’s Building, 9995 E. Colfax Ave. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at rattlebrainproductions.com. Visit the People’s Building Facebook page for additional information. 

The real question we’re wondering these days is: What isn’t happening at the People’s Building on East Colfax Avenue? From full-scale musicals, to stand-up comedy to musical jams and art exhibitions, the still relatively new space in Original Aurora is offering a little something for everyone this season. Such is the case again this weekend, when Rattlebrain Productions is staging a two-day run of its heralded and avant-garde showcase “[email protected]” Billed as a modern theater production that is equal parts musical, technological feat and saccharine narrative, the 90-minute show ain’t your grandfather’s stage show. Crafted by Dave Shirley and Robert Dubac, this show is not to be missed. 

Art meet-up at Autism Community Store

1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 25, The Autism Community Store 14095 E. Exposition Ave. Free. Visit the Autism Community Store’s Facebook page for additional information. 

Academic art classes are once again ramping up in what is shaping up to be yet another strange, strange school year, but that doesn’t mean the creativity has to be sequestered to the classroom. Aurora’s own Autism Community Store is offering another free summer art workshop this weekend in an effort to give all manner of folks to further explore colors, textures and materials. Slated to take place next Saturday at the haunt on East Exposition Avenue, the gathering will offer free, take-home art projects to attendees. So grab your artistic thinking cap and head to this community gem for an hour of
creativity. 

Museum of Contemporary Art fall exhibitions

Tuesday-Friday 12 p.m. – 7 p.m., Sat-Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 1485 Delgany Street, Denver. General admission is $10. Visit mcadenver.org for more information.

Two new exhibits opened up at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver earlier this month. Jason Moran’s “Bathing the Room with Blues” was conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic and explores the history of jazz in Denver and the significance of music to Black culture and life in America. “Deborah Roberts: I’m” features new mixed media work from the Austin-based artist that centers on Black children. Both exhibits run through Jan. 30. General admission is $10 for adults and $7 for seniors, but if you visit on October 2 (or the first Saturday of any month), admission costs just a penny for Colorado residents — that’s what we call a steal.

Viewers take in the new Van Gogh Alive exhibit during a media preview, July 8, at the Hangar at Stanley, at the Stanley market Place. The exhibit is a multi-sensory experience showcasing some of Van GoghÕs best works.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Vinyasa with Van Gogh at Stanley Marketplace

8 a.m. Sept. 28, Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St. $15 donation required. Entry does not permit access to the entire Van Gogh Alive exhibit. Visit the Stanley Facebook page for more information. 

It seems that there’s nothing the crew at Stanley Marketplace can’t pair with a meditative yoga class. Airplane hangars? Check. Gaggles of adoptable puppies? You betchya. And an immersive art experience honoring perhaps the Netherlands’ most famous redhead? Oh sure, why the heck not? The latter will be unfolding with Stanley’s newest take on Vinyasa on Tuesdays through the end of the month with help of Vibe Wellness. The class, which can be attended for a suggested donation of just $15, takes place in the childhood bedroom portion of the greater Van Gogh exhibit currently on display at the north Aurora bazaar of food and retail. One can at once loosen those vertebrae while taking a gander at the genesis of one of post-impressionism’s most prolific godfathers. 

Denver Center for the Performing Arts holiday shows

Showtimes and ticket prices vary through the winter. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts Complex, 1101 13th St., Denver. Visit denvercenter.org for more information. 

Tickets for DCPA’s holiday shows plus for the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen go on sale beginning Sept. 24. The lineup features Camp Christmas, an immersive display at the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park (Nov. 18-Jan. 2, tickets $8-$25), the classic seasonal play A Christmas Carol (Wolf Theatre Nov. 19-Dec. 26, tickets starting at $35) and a new twist on another old favorite, The Hip Hop Nutcracker (Buell Theatre Nov. 19-Dec. 26, tickets starting at $25). If none of those are quite your style, you can also snag tickets for Dear Evan Hansen. The musical doesn’t come to Denver until summer of 2022 but if you want a sneak peek of the plot, a movie version of the teen drama hits the screens this week. Order tickets online for all four shows at denvercenter.org. To ensure audience safety, patrons 12+ must be masked and show proof of vaccination to attend shows, and those under 12 must show proof of a negative COVID test.

Young Frankenstein at The Vintage Theatre

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m. on Sundays through Oct. 31. The Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St. Tickets start at $20. Visit vintagetheatre.org for more information. 

It’s “frahnken-shteen,” thank you very much. Aurora’s own Vintage Theatre is welcoming the stage iteration of Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic to its own Dayton Street haunt for the next six weeks, complete with the slightly mispronounced names of the good doctor and eye-gor. For the uninitiated, the tale offers an alternate and slightly madcap look at Mary Shelley’s ubiquitous monster tale.While we won’t get the likes of Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle, the stage show features Cooper Kaminsky in the lead role, and Jeffrey Betsch as the monster, or, as Mr. Wilder would say, a 7-foot-tall, 54-inch-wide gorilla. Linda Suttle directs, and Brandon Bill is in charge of musical direction. Frau Bulcher!

A historic photo of the Hoffman Heights neighborhood in Aurora. Photo via the Aurora History Museum

“The Rise of the Aurora Suburb During the Cold War” at the Aurora History Museum 

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The exhibit is expected to be up until early next year. The Aurora History Museum 15051 E. Alameda Pkwy. Free. Visit auroragov.org or call 303-739-6660 for more information. 

Most Aurora residents of 2021 likely don’t know the name Sam Hoffman, but they’ve undoubtedly seen his work. A Russian immigrant and plasterer by trade, Hoffman and his sons were the masterminds behind one of the first meticulously planned out subdivisions that sprung up in the area in the late 1940s and early 1950s, as thousands of military officials and their families were descending on the city with GI Bill funds in hand. The hand Hoffman played in shaping Aurora from the late 1940s to the early 1960s is the focus of the newest exhibit at the Aurora History Museum. The display centers on Aurora’s growth at a time when duck-and-cover drills and nuclear explosion simulations at the nearby Rocky Mountain Arsenal were quotidian affairs. The exhibit is even adorned with a replica 1950s kitchen and mock fallout shelter that residents can peruse as they learn about how Aurora (née Fletcher) became the bustling burg it is today. 

Woody Crumbo Exhibit at the Aurora History Museum 

Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The exhibit will be up for at least the next six months. The museum at 15051 E. Alameda Pkwy. is free to the public, but reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 303-739-6660.

Prepare to eat your hearts out, art lovers of Aurora. The newest exhibit at the Aurora History Museum, entitled “Art by ‘Woody’ Crumbo,” features 17 enlarged prints of indigenous dancers originally produced by Potawatomi painter Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Crumbo, a longtime friend of the Henslers while they lived on Jamaica Court in Aurora. The exhibit that opened in the museum’s east hallway in late August marks the third time Crumbo’s art has been displayed at the facility since a pair of Aurora art collectors donated the prints, as well as works from a smattering of other indigenous artists, more than 30 years ago. The same Crumbo pieces hung alongside works from the likes of Harrison Begay and J.D. Roybal when the museum first moved to its current location on the city’s municipal campus in 1991, and again in 2010. Given that general timeline, don’t miss the chance to see these works before they are tucked away in the museum archives for another decade. The current showing is expected to be up through spring 2022. 

This image provided by the Supreme Court shows Ruth Bader Ginsburg types while on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in Italy in 1977. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, on Sept. 18, 2020, the Supreme Court announced. (Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via AP)

“Sisters in Law” at the John Hand Theatre

7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays Sept. 25 through Oct. 31 at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Pl., Denver. Ticket prices vary. Visit theatreor.com for more information. 

The Supreme Court of the United States is a bit of a, how do you say, hot topic these days. Midnight judges have turned into renewed midnight rulings, thrusting the organ into frequent limelight. Denver’s Theatre Or is taking a look at the recent history of the court with their fall production this month and next, an examination of the relationship between Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Written by Jonathan Shapiro and directed by Amy Feinberg, the show looks at how two female titans of the court laid the groundwork for the current composition of the powerful entity. Read into that however you’d like. Several shows in early October feature talkbacks with the cast, but several of the events are already all booked up, so be sure to nab your tickets soon. Masks and proof of vaccination are required to attend. 

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