Blasts of distorted electric-guitar chords compounded with a capricious flow of drums and cymbal crashes on Sept. 18 as the Summerset Festival audience absorbed the hard-rock performance of local student band Chapter 4. A teenage crowd edged up against the stage, transforming a small section of grass in Clement Park into a mosh pit, pushing and laughing as they bounced off of one another.
Jewel Walsh, a vocal instructor at Denver’s School of Rock, quietly moved from one side of the stage to the other, lifting her John Lennon-style sunglasses as she scouted the best angle to take a photo as the band played.
It was, for her, a moment of gratification.
“I’m so proud of them,” she said, making special note of singer Carl Strobel, a recent student under her tutelage in the dark art of rock ’n’ roll.
“This is ‘hard’ for me,” she smiled, contrasting the band’s heavy sound to her course’s required listening — new classics from ’80s groups such as Heart and Pat Benatar. “Music should be everywhere for kids. It’ll save their soul, man.”
When the Summerset Festival was born 26 years ago, it was envisioned as a South Jeffco community gathering — one that would unite neighbors in a jubilant farewell to a waning season. Today, with scores of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, Summerset has grown to encompass a much larger community, one pulling from the stretches of the metro area and beyond.
And that community, a mix of music aficionados, classic-car enthusiasts, dog lovers and people who just wanted to bring their families out for a day in the sun, indeed bid the summer a hearty goodbye.
On Saturday, which best resembled a balmy fall day, visitors circulated through vast rows of classic automobiles and modern muscle cars. Hotrods, antiques and one-of-a-kind vehicles were parked with their engines exposed on Clement Park’s lawn, as patrons slowed to take in elements of classic styling, bright paint and fresh chrome.
Many took particular interest in the sight of James Whitman’s 1969 Cadillac Supreme hearse, a daunting yet whimsical display festooned with novelty severed limbs and a plush Frankenstein’s monster behind the wheel. The scene evoked equal responses of amazement and aversion.
“She’s barely had any time to enjoy the summer,” Whitman said of the recently restored vehicle, which made its first show appearance at Summerset’s Wild West Auto Fest. “I like the style of the car. It’s not so much the gothic end of it. … You just don’t see this in cars anymore,” he added, referring to the hearse’s vintage styling.
And on Sunday, which conversely saw record high temperatures in the mid-90s, canine lovers enjoyed one last dog day of summer. Attractions at the festival’s Fun Day for the Dogs included a multitude of agility demonstrations from high-octane mutts, a flying-disc catching competition and a variety of adoptable dogs from rescues and shelters.
“All of our animals are in foster homes,” said Georgetown-based Hope for Animals president Julie Quaife, as she held Princess, a Chihuahua. The group, which had recently rescued a pit bull from a Denver municipal shelter, provided adoption and fostering information for visitors who stopped to say hello to its cluster of homeless pooches.
Kid-specific amenities at Summerset included face painting, jump castles, a climbing wall and a bubble-blowing tower, among other attractions.
“We came out here last year. It certainly seems like it’s a lot bigger this year,” said South Jeffco resident Jim Cobb, whose son, Tyler, rested on his shoulders, grabbing a free-flowing swath of airborne bubbles. The local merchants add flavor to the event, he said, but the biggest draw is the selection of activities for youngsters. “(It’s) kid friendly,” he said.
Contact Emile Hallez Williams at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.
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