Aug 042009
Authors: Erik Myers

Besides considering it as a last summer hurrah for the Fort Collins community, organizers of Bohemian Nights at New West Fest safely assume it to be the city’s largest gathering, generally drawing crowds from outside city limits.

“We’ve estimated about 100,000 to 120,000 in terms of attendance,” said organizer Peggy Lyle. “We certainly get a lot of travelers.”

Lyle is the programming and event director for the Downtown Business Association and sat on the festival’s talent committee earlier this year. For the past few years, her organization has worked alongside Fort Collins’ Bohemian Group in organizing the free-entry festival.

The biggest draw for most visitors, Lyle said, is the event’s musical headliners. This year’s top-bill performers are celebrated singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge on Aug. 15, followed by genre-crossing eight-piece Ozomatli on Aug. 16. Both performances will take place on the Mountain Avenue stage, and Etheridge’s performance will be simultaneously broadcasted on a large screen in Library Park. Her show is being billed as a “Live and Alone” performance.

“She’s doing a more personal type show versus a huge band kind of production,” Lyle said.

While the music plays a large role in the festival’s prominence in Northern Colorado, Lyle said the festival is a huge draw for businesses both local and out-of-town. She estimates that the festival will feature more than 300 booths.

Typical booth patrons include local businesses, arts and crafts sellers, political groups and other city organizations. There will also be a total of 30 food vendors at the event, covering a wide swath of dining options. Fort Collins’ foreign cuisine restaurants are expected to be in full-force during the festival, including Thai Pepper, where Denver cook Anucha Hasadinratana loudly announces each serving of monkey balls with a ringing of a bell.

“He’s been doing our festivals and festivals around Colorado for a long, long time,” Lyle said of Hasadinratana. “He’s quite the figure.”

Both days will see additional performances from 50 local artists and bands. New West Fest had never seen such a breadth of musical acts until five years ago, said talent committee member and festival blogger Greta Cornett, when the Bohemian Foundation became the festival organizer. Cornett said bringing in acts from Colorado’s burgeoning music scene has helped maintain the local spirit of the festival.

“I always like a very local festival,” Cornett said. “That keeps a lot of the history there, keeping the local bands intertwined with the public.”

New West Fest began in 1988 as an effort of Fort Collins’ Chamber Of Commerce to celebrate the city’s birthday. This year’s festival celebrates its 138th year.

Staff writer Erik Myers can be reached at

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