Money, assets, heirlooms, a seat to judge the annual cake-eating contest at Carbondale Mountain Fair.

These are among the treasures that one may find in a will from one Carbondale local to the next.

“That’s how beloved [Mountain Fair’s] different traditions are to different people,” Carbondale Arts executive director Amy Kimberly said of the 48-year-old festival that kicks off today at noon. (See sidebar for times and more detail).

At the helm of the arts nonprofit that produces Mountain Fair, Kimberly credits its more than 300 volunteers for making the event happen each year. In fact, the team of 90 percent volunteers is one of the three “distinct ethos” that separate Mountain Fair from other festivals in the valley, Kimberly said. The other criteria include a ban on visible sponsorships — “no banners or anything like that,” she said — and that Mountain Fair remain free “because it’s a community celebration.”

Between 15,000 and 18,000 people are expected to stroll through Sopris Park at some point throughout the three-day festival. They will be welcomed by live music and bands, about 165 vendors, activities such as wood-splitting and magic, arts and crafts, limbo and horseshoe competitions, and of course, police officers sporting tie-dye T-shirts — as is tradition. (Of note, Kimberly cautioned, the men’s and women’s wood-splitting events switched days this year. She encouraged patrons to check the program for event specifics).

“You name it, people bring it to the park,” Kimberly said. “We’re kind of like a progressive country fair but in [a] Carbondale style.”

In partnership with the nonprofits Gay for Good and AspenOUT, the 2019 festival theme is “rainbow connection.”

“We’ve had people who have been hassled at Mountain Fair for being different,” Kimberly explained. “So, we feel it’s really important to put that out there and that awareness into the people who come. It will be pretty evident throughout the fair — a message of tolerance and love.”

On being part of this year’s event, Gay for Good leader Steve Mills said, “It’s very humbling [to be involved] because we are a newer organization, but I think Amy’s seen the work we’ve done up and down the valley.”

He referenced the organization’s involvement with Carbondale Middle School to help organize the valley’s first-ever Pride Parade in May.

“The community came out in droves. It was very emotional,” Mills said. “I’m getting emotional even talking about it right now.”

Mills, who co-founded the Roaring Fork Valley chapter of Gay for Good last June, said Gay for Good is already working with the middle school to produce a second annual event.

“We’re here to let the valley know we have a vibrant gay comment [and] foster community within the community,” he said.

New at this year’s Mountain Fair, a “rainbow lounge” will allow people to learn about local LGBTQ+ organizations, try on costumes and get a rainbow-inspired manicure all at once.

Speaking of dress up, each day offers a different dress theme, Kimberly explained: On Friday, patrons are encouraged to sport tie-dye; Saturday is “wear your favorite color of the rainbow,” and Sunday is “mythical rainbow creature” dress.

“It’s a very participatory fair,” Kimberly said. “People love to find ways to participate and we love to give them ways.”

Erica Robbie is the arts and entertainment editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ericarobbie.