This Memorial Day weekend is the 23rd annual Boulder Creek Festival, the unofficial kickoff to summer in Boulder. The Festival is held Saturday through Monday in downtown Boulder along the Boulder Creek Path, extending from 9th Street to 14th Street (west to east), between Canyon Blvd. and Arapahoe Ave. (north and south).
The Festival includes three days of festivities and features something for everyone: 10 separate event areas with 500 vendors showcasing everything from community arts and crafts to health alternatives and technology, while five performance stages feature a spectrum of music and dance. There are also carnival rides, food and beverage vendors, and the signature event: the Great Rubber Duck Race.
Each duck in the Great Rubber Duck Race is marked with a number, and each duck has a ticket to correspond with this number. When you purchase a duck (for a $5 suggested donation), you receive a ticket with your duck’s number written on it. Then on Monday at 4 p.m., the ducks are dropped into the Boulder Creek, and they float down the Creek to the finish line, where there is a chute so that only one duck can pass through at a time.
In addition to the thrill of watching thousands of rubber ducks racing down—or really, bobbing along—the Boulder Creek, there are prizes to incentivize this bizarre tradition, including $1,500 cash, a stay at the Hotel Boulderado, and 94 other prizes. To purchase a duck for the Duck Race, you can stop by any of the “Duck Booths” located throughout the festival grounds during the weekend.
The Festival is split up into a variety of themed sections, so if you’re short on time, you can target the areas that interest you most. The “Art Show” section displays the fine art of over 100 regional and national artists selected for the Show by the Festival jury. Located just outside the Art Show tent, the “Artist Marketplace” has a wide selection of arts and crafts exhibited by artists of all media and contains one of the 5 performance stages at the Festival: Acoustic Corner, a venue for a diverse group of Boulder singers & songwriters, musicians, dancers, and performers. The “Spirit of Boulder” portion of the Festival celebrates Boulder’s progressive viewpoints and alternative lifestyles and features nontraditional approaches to healthy living and environmental preservation. The “Boulder Creek Bazaar” features the food court, a beer garden, and the ever-popular Community Dance Stage. The “Outdoor Adventures in Creek Fest West” section consists of various organizations, services, and equipment geared toward Boulder’s active, fitness-oriented community. This area has several carnival-type attractions, not to mention the starting line for the Great Rubber Duck Race.
This is also a great place to bring young people. The “Teen Creek Fest” section features a young artists’ tent and booths with information for teens, and the “Kid’s Place” has a stage featuring children’s entertainment and exhibitors hosting hands-on activities.
Most festivals claim to have “something for everyone,” but this may be one of the few that actually succeeds. Not only that, but I bet you’d be hard pressed to find anything else that could provide the level of excitement you’ll get from racing a rubber duck down a creek. There’s just nothing like it.