Five years ago, Josh Sampson had a vision. After moving to Colorado and seeing the potential within small businesses here, he wanted to see local vendors working together to create a sense of community. Coming from Brooklyn, where he was into arts and entertainment, he noticed something special about the River North Art District.
“Spending time in the RiNo Arts District reminded me of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I had built an arts and entertainment venue and hub a few years earlier. Inspired by the similar spirit and energy in Denver, 2014 felt like the perfect time to bring that magic to Denver,” wrote Sampson in an email.
TheBigWonderful was born in the Sustainability Park in RiNo. From here, Sampson moved it to Littleton and Aurora before he settled in in 2017 in the Globeville neighborhood of Denver.
Sampson’s intention was to emphasize the importance of local businesses and be a helping hand in the public’s interest in the quirkiness and uniqueness of these businesses.
“With TheBigWonderful, I focused on fun, local food, and empowering local small businesses. I wanted to provide a platform that would empower the pop-up economy and organically revitalize these vacant spaces and lots, one weekend at a time,” Sampson wrote.
Since its beginning, TheBigWonderful’s growth has been very evident. What began as a small event with 100 attendees is now a giant festival, one that people all around Colorado are attracted to. Just this year, they hosted an event in the mountains of Winter Park.
“We’re very grateful that TheBigWonderful has grown considerably over the past five years. We started with a couple breweries, 10 craft vendors, a few food trucks and 100 people showing up in a vacant lot on 26th and Lawrence – and now we are in five+ locations on Front Range, hosting 80-100 vendors and 20+ breweries at our events – and just this year held our first event in the mountains,” wrote Sampson.
The zero waste aspect is one of TheBigWonderful’s main attractions and it boasts being one of the most sustainable festivals in Denver. That’s probably because Sampson has always been interested in farming and sustainability, graduating from an Urban Farming program in Milwaukee in 2013. Towards the beginning of the festival, TheBigWonderful paired up with Lyndsey Manderson, the owner of Zero Market, Denver’s first zero waste market located in Stanley Marketplace. Together, they created a sustainability program. Two years later, TheBigWonderful joined forces with Scraps. The Scraps team hangs out at the events, sorting, weighing, composting and recycling. In addition, all food and drink vendors at TheBigWonderful will be using compostable containers beginning this year and moving forward.
The combination of sustainability and entertainment makes this festival not only one of a kind, but also appeals to the Denver culture as a whole. With so many Colorado vendors working towards a greener future, including B Fresh Gear, Humorandgrace, Big Shot Bikes and others (which you can check out at TheBigWonderful), Colorado is the perfect home for a festival like this.
“We’ve become the premiere Colorado pop-up lifestyle event curators and have seen TheBigWonderful become a cultural barometer of fun in Denver,” wrote Sampson.
This year’s festival, the 5th Annual Derby Weekend, is coming up. It will be located at the Old Denver Post Building in Globeville (4400 Fox Street, Denver). Sampson said that the space has an awesome view of Denver’s skyline and plenty of space for parking.
There are tons of things to look forward to at this year’s festival. They’ve got all the beer you need, tons of bluegrass and a huge variety of vendors, so if you’re into any one of these things, not to mention all three, you should stop by.
“We have over 100 of the city’s best craft vendors and makers, a selection of the tastiest Denver food trucks serving up a diverse menu, and a stacked BEERFEST with over 20 breweries, cideries and distilleries pouring unlimited samples throughout the weekend. Falling on Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby weekend, TheBigWonderful will have drink specials, the big race playing on multiple TVs, yoga each morning from 11:30am to 12:30pm hosted by YogaPod, and many more family — and dog — friendly activities planned,” wrote Sampson.
On Sunday, Leftover Salmon is coming to TheBigWonderful for a special record release performance and album signing of their new album Something Higher, which comes out May 4. Festival attendees will be among the first to hear this new album.
“The Colorado bluegrass legends will be selling and signing copies of Something Higher after their performance, adding a unique record store experience to the Bazaar that we hope to continue in the future,” Sampson wrote.
The fifth anniversary kicks off this weekend from May 5 to 6 at 4400 Fox Street, Denver. Tickets start at $5 and go up to $50. Go here for more info.
All photos courtesy of TheBigWonderful.