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48th Carbondale Mountain Fair, Carbondale, CO, July 26-28, 2019

Fees: Jury $25, Booth $350

Medium: Leather: plain and hand carved equestrian, K-9,

personal leather goods and gun leathers.

Price Range: $16 set of napkin rings to $9,800 silver mounted



     The 48th Carbondale Mountain Fair was held in Sopris Park, a grassy city-block park with large old shade trees.  The big draw for the event is the live music.  The stage is at the NW corner of the park, and 151 artist booths are along the north, west and south perimeters of the park.  The booths are far enough away from the music, whose volume was well controlled, so artist could converse with clients.  All mediums were represented, the quality was high, and there was no buy/sell.

     Carbondale is a small town with a population of about 6,500.  It is in the northern end of the Roaring Fork Valley which extends from Glenwood Springs at the north on I-70 to the ski areas of Aspen and Snowmass to the south in the mountains. It is a bedroom community for workers in Aspen.  Forty-four percent of Carbondale is Hispanic, and I had the opportunity to practice my Spanish during the fair.  The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent areas of Colorado and the US. The Aspen/Snowmass skiing complex and summer recreation drive the economy of the region.  Carbondale is about 3 hours from Denver and about 1 3/4 hours from Grand Junction, CO by way of I-70 and Colorado 82.

     Besides the music, the Mountain Fair has 14-mile and 4-mile races, bike race, pie and cake baking competitions (you can buy slices for $3 after judging), raffle, wood splitting and fly-casting competitions, youth music instruction, Sunday morning yoga with live Eastern music, and lots more.  Check it out online.  The biggest crowd roars were during the women’s wood splitting.  The event is ecofriendly.  Besides the usual “trash” and “recycle” containers, there were “compost” containers. No bottled water is sold.  Utensils and plates from the food vendors were also compostable.  Besides the artists, there were booths for massage, tarot reader, Colorado and local LGBT organizations, Hemp/CBD products, Organic pot (inside beverage tent, it’s Colorado folks), silent auction and small displays by local artists.  Locals told me that based on alcohol sales (beer, wine, mixed drinks), the crowd is more than 20,000.   In talking with my clients, I found folks from Denver, I-70 corridor, area ranches, and Europe.

     Locals refer to Carbondale and area as ”a bubble” different from everywhere else.  The crowd was a mix of 30 somethings Aspen chic; scruffy ski bums and snowboarders waiting for the first snow; a few bikers and ranchers; lots of ink, dreadlocks, young families, and everything in between and on the ends.  Many arrived on bicycles and large bike corrals are provided.  Overall, I was thinking 1960’s hippies fast forwarded to 2019.  There were young girls, teens, young women and the older generation with flower crowns and flowing ribbons. Friday was “tie dye day” and even the police wore tie dye.  Saturday was “monochrome day” and Sunday was “costume day”.  The regional community turns out for this event and they were spending money with the artists.


SET UP AND TAKE DOWN. Check in was at 3:00pm Thursday and extended until noon on Friday when the fair opened.  When we arrived at 3:00, about half of the artists were already well along in setting up. Unloading on the south and east side of the park was well managed. Generally, you have 30 minutes to unload before beginning your setup and this was more or less enforced.  We found a parking space in the USFS parking lot and only had to dolly about 30 yards to our site.  Take down began at 5:00pm Sunday and artists were supposed to have everything down and ready to load before parking on the perimeter of the park. This wasn’t enforced, and the perimeter was packed with vehicles before a single tent was down. This didn’t affect me as it took us 5 hours to pack and load.  Musicians played after 5:00pm during take down.  Professional security is provided Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

     Show hours are 10:00am until there are still people around. I shut down around 8:00 on Friday and 7:00 on Saturday.  Electricity is not available.


WEATHER. The temperature was in the mid-70’s to low 80’s.  There were intermittent brief light rain showers Friday and Saturday afternoon.  Saturday around 7:00 there was a heavy rain and I got soaked moving stuff to our truck. Sunday morning there was mud mixed with the grass, but volunteers were spreading straw. I got several flakes for our and neighbor’s booths. This is typical of mountain weather.


THE SHOW.  This is a well-organized and managed show run by Carbondale Arts, a volunteer organization.  This was the second year I had done this show.  Sales tax of 8.4% is collected at the end of the show. This saves you from reporting it to the state.  They request that you have a FEIN or SS when paying your sales tax.


THE NUMBERS.  Sales got off to a good start Friday and by day’s end they were three times greater than Friday of 2018. That continued Saturday and Sunday resulting in one of our top five shows ever.  There were sales of belts, holsters and gun belts, spur straps, canteens, check books, suspenders, guitar straps, billfolds, and small cases. Belts with sterling silver buckles and multiple item sales kicked up the gross. I will a[ply to this show in 2020.

Note: The slabs leaning against the flag pole are Yule marble from the quarry at Marble, CO. This marble was used in the Lincoln Memorial and Tomb of the Unknowns, Washington DC.

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  • Great comprehensive review, Richard.  Loved the pictures of the police in tie-die!  Did you have trouble finding accommodations in such a small town?  Maybe not since it is a big tourist mecca.

    • We found a basement apartment for around $90/night in town a couple months before the event. There are lots of $100-$200/night condos in Aspen/Snowmass about 20 miles away and motels in Glenwood Springs about 10 miles away. I just saw a place in Aspen that is an "artists special" at $2079.00/night LOL. 

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