With another quarter million expected to attend the 42nd Parker Days Festival, it helps to have a withered guide to help navigate the grounds, rides, concerts and food of the three day festival that kicks off with a preview show this Thursday in Parker.
With that in mind we asked Parker resident Thomas Wilson, a regular attendee to the festival voted “Best on the Front Range” for three consecutive years, to help us discern what is worth the wait, what to skip and how not to get caught in painstakingly long lines.
“Purchase what you can online before you go,” Wilson offered with his first piece of sound advice. “You already know you’re going to be waiting in line for food, waiting in line for rides and waiting in line for the bathroom, the last thing you want to do is wait in line to buy tickets to then go wait in those lines.”
Food and drink tickets must be purchased on site, however, with most food vendors only accepting tickets in lieu of cash. According to organizers, drinks cost anywhere from 2-5 tickets while food typically costs 2-10 tickets.
“If you have little ones make sure they can get on the rides before you splurge on a 4-day pass or a one-day pass,” Wilson said. “We made the mistake one year not knowing that our 3-year-old wouldn’t meet the height requirement for the rides. That was a difficult day.”
The current minimum height requirement for all carnival rides - including those found in the Kids’ Zone in the Pace Center parking lot - is 36 inches. Whether with an adult or not, children under that height are not allowed to get on the carnival rides.
“Even if you’re familiar with Parker, it helps to have a map and to know where things are ahead of time,” Wilson said. “Especially if you have kids spread out across different ages, it’s nice to be able to tell one group they can go on the big kid rides, another that they can go on the kid rides and you can all meet back up at a good centric location on the map.”
With hundreds of rides, games and activities, it is easy to get caught up on it all, Wilson added that it is good to know what you are paying for.
“A carnival ride pass is good for just that, carnival rides,” he said. “If you want to do the bouncy house, that’s an additional $20 I think for an all-day pass.”
Aside from the $3 per turn or $20 all-day pass for inflatables, other attractions carry a separate cost. Big Ball Entertainment, which features giant inflatable balls that people can go inside and run on water for as long as their balance allows, costs an additional $10 per ride; carnival games carry a varying costs that starts at $3; and mobile Nerf tag carries a cost of $3 per game.
“I find you won’t be as disappointed with the pricing if you go in knowing just how much everything costs,” Wilson added. “That way you can formulate a plan and stick to a budget.”
Of course no festival would be complete without live music.
“I think a lot of people believe it’s just a country festival,” said Wilson, 39, who is a self-described “detester” of the country music genre. “But there is actually a good, eclectic mix at the festival.”
This year - as in years past - three stages will make up the musical landscape of the festival with the Ent Credit Union Main Stage hosting bands from Thursday’s preview show at 6 pm to Sunday’s finale at 8 pm. The East End Stage will feature acts from Friday to Sunday evening and the Community Stage will host local talent (from kids to adults) featuring not just music, but also dance performances, cultural presentations, demonstrations and comedy.
For more information on tickets, parking, vendor and performers visit www.parkerdaysfestival.com.