Sunnyside Music Festival Aims to Unite Community

By Toni Tresca

On Sept. 9, the Sunnyside Music Festival will host its annual event at Chaffee Park. The event is free and family friendly. From noon to 7:15 p.m., there will be performances by Buffalo Commons, Extra Gold, Lazy Summer Home and Mono Verde, and A Colorado Blues Revue featuring The Delta Sonics, Lionel Young, Erica Brown, Jack Hadley and Ken Saydak.

“We don’t have a theme for the festival other than community and accessibility. That’s one great thing about it being free — everyone is invited,” said Erin Shumaker, president of the Sunnyside Music Festival. “We are super excited about the artists this year; they are amazing musicians who have been around for a while. This started as a bluegrass festival, so we want to have roots in that. Along with having bluegrass flare, we love to highlight musicians who live in the neighborhood.”

Since 2000, the Sunnyside Music Festival has offered an all-inclusive day of free music, enjoyable entertainment, tasty local food, plenty of beer and kid-friendly activities to the greater Sunnyside neighborhood of northwest Denver.

A local couple wanted to host a free music festival in their backyard for their friends and neighbors, with two bands, two kegs, 50 attendees and about 20 dogs. This was the beginning of the then-named Sunnyside Bluegrass Festival. The couple gave up on the festival around 2004 after being unable to move it to Chaffee Park (not the neighborhood).

The Sunnyside Music Festival takes place from noon to 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 9. Photo Courtesy of Aaron Snyder / Cabin Door Media

Even though Sunnyside’s music festival appeared to have died before it truly began, locals still applied for two grants to revive the festival. Over the years, the Sunnyside Music Festival has become a tradition, taking over Chaffee Park on the Saturday after Labor Day.

Since 2016, the nonprofit has generated enough revenue from the festival to give out small grants to regional organizations that promote music education among the children in our community.

“We try to have a few different events, but the festival is the big to-do,” Shumaker said. “Our nonprofit’s goal is to host a music festival that unites the locals, promotes small businesses and creates lasting relationships in the community.”

Shumaker has served on the event’s all-volunteer board for the past six years. She is serving in her inaugural year as board president and chief organizer of the festival. This is the Sunnyside Music Festival’s first year partnering with Avant-Garde Event Services.

“They are amazing and helping us elevate the festival with our community and financing,” Shumaker said. “Avant-Garde Event Services handled getting our permits, renting the stage and that operational stuff. We handle the fun part of the event, like picking the music, working to get sponsors, getting the kids’ area (sponsored by Zaga Design Group) set up and designing the merchandise.”

If you want to take a break from the concert, you can go to the vendor station. Along with the on-stage performers, there will be 33 artisan vendors, food trucks, beverages and ice cream.

“We have a great shopping area set up for people,” Shumaker said. “People told us they wanted more options, so we assembled a fantastic lineup of diverse artisans to meet that demand.”

The organizers ask that you bring a sense of neighborly spirit but leave any outside alcohol at home. Not only does their liquor license prohibit outside beverages, but drink sales help fund the event and provide thousands of dollars to local youth through their grant program.


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