By Miranda Ericksen
The reinvigoration of the Sun Valley Viaduct continues to gain momentum with the third annual Sun Valley Viaduct Night Market scheduled for May 20.
The Market will take place from 4-10 p.m. at the south end of Empower Field under the Colfax Viaduct, west of Raices Brewing Company and east of the Latino Cultural Arts Center at 2705 W. Colfax Ave.
In addition to local vendors, artists and food trucks, there will be beer available from Raices Brewing and a diverse lineup of performances. Entertainment will include mariachi bands, dance performances, live music and DJ sets. Lawn games and family friendly activities are also on the agenda for the event. Admission to the event is free and supported by what’s called a “P.S. You Are Here Grant” provided by the city.
In 2022, Denver Arts & Venues agreed to invest $100,000 in funding for projects to be implemented in 2022-2024. P.S. You Are Here Grants of up to $10,000 are available to individuals, nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses to build innovative, temporary projects that are rooted in community collaborations.
Glenn Harper, founder of the Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center, has worked with the West Denver Renaissance Collaborative on creative solutions to prevent displacement of the Sun Valley community and promote the hundreds of small businesses in the west Denver area.
The collaborative includes representatives from the Far East Center, BuCu West and Little Saigon, in addition to Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center. For example, businesses in the area can participate in a West Denver Gift Card, which patrons can purchase and then use at whichever participating business they wish.
The collaborative also works together on the annual Green Chili Festival on Morrison Road and Lunar New Year celebrations to continue the celebration of cultural diversity in west Denver. Food has been a central aspect of the Sun Valley Kitchen and Community Center, which has been open for 10 years.
The organization uses an old grocery store space to allow equitable access to food, employment and cooking classes. Additionally, there are youth professional development programs and athletics training and mentorship available.
Harper and his team recognize the growing need to support citizens in the west Denver area who have been priced out of their homes through increases over the past decade. The Viaduct Night Market came about through an expressed need by the members of the community to celebrate the culture and diversity of the neighborhood through food, fun and music.
The annual event is “the catalyst for a longer term vision of semi-permanent international markets and use of the Viaduct space outside of tailgating for football games” said Harper.
Previous Sun Valley Viaduct Night Market events included a race track for strider bikes, a pho eating contest and numerous lawn games for families and the community to enjoy together. Denver City Councilwoman Jamie Torres of District 3 stated that it was “about transforming people’s economy, their business center and their ability to market themselves.”
With over 20 local food vendors, the event allowed the community to “tap into the flavors of west Denver, right here,” Torres said. This year, there will be a yet-to-be-disclosed food eating contest and four featured chefs from Sun Valley, representing Vietnam, Somalia, Jordan and Colorado.
“Activating the space is really exciting, we have one permanent mural, recently installed really cool lighting features and will be unveiling a second permanent mural during this year’s event,” Harper said.
He said he would love to see more events in the space, but stated that the biggest challenge is working around the vibrant and busy Empower Field schedule of events. The Sun Valley Community has been undergoing a revitalization throughout the past few years.
In 2016, Denver Housing Authority was awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation Grant to implement the Sun Valley Neighborhood Transformation Plan. The plan includes the replacement of 333 obsolete public housing units that will create over 960 mixed-income units in four phases.
The long-term vision is that the Sun Valley Viaduct Night Market will be an annual event that will continue to inspire residents of west Denver to embrace the diversity of the neighborhood as the Neighborhood Transformation Plan continues to take shape.