Eat a Peach (And Drink a Couple Too)
Colorado's Palisade Peach Festival
When the rock band The Presidents of the
United States of America broke big with their hit single "Peaches" they
had the whole country dreaming of---to paraphrase the song's lyrics---going
to the country and eating a lot of peaches. There's really nothing more
tantalizing on a hot summer's day than having your taste buds come alive
as you tear into a just-picked peach loaded with so much nectar that some
of the goodness is bound to dribble down your chin. Too bad you have to
go to Georgia to experience that. Wrong, nectarine breath! Actually some
of the best peaches in the world (even the Georgians love them) come from
northwestern Colorado and a humble little town called Palisade. Every August
Palisade celebrates the harvest with what you could easily call the "juiciest"
event of the summer---the Palisade Peach Festival!
In the Colorado National Monument operated
by the National Park Service there are places with names like Devil's Kitchen
and Cold Shivers Point. The park's border is a handful of miles away from
the city of Grand Junction and about five thousand feet higher in elevation.
If you explore this area by car or on one of its many hiking trails you'll
probably spot some of the locals---bighorn sheep and mountain lions---amongst
the juniper bushes and paintbrush. The area is gorgeous but hardscrabble;
it looks like something you'd see in a movie western, certainly not like
anyplace where you could grow any crops. But look to the northeast from
any of the monument's many scenic overlooks and you'll see that the spire
and arch-filled Old West landscape towers only minutes away from the modernity
of Grand Junction and the nearby lush rural lands of Palisade. With the
added benefit of views like this it's no wonder that people come to Palisade
from all over the country when the peaches are ready.
During the long four-day weekend that encompasses
the Palisade Peach Festival you can see, sample, purchase or just marvel
at everything peach. And I do mean everything! Dozens of vendors offer
sweet treats like peach ice cream and peach fudge and there are all kinds
of peach libations including daiquiris. A Peach Queen is crowned and you
might find her delighting over the various peach jellies and salsas on
hand. And surely Farmer Bob, a well-known and well-loved local farmer will
be hustling bushels of the fruit as he dishes out peachy wisdom. All the
other things that come with an outdoor, fair-type event are available in
abundance too including arts & crafts, music and lots of food on a
Grand Junction gets in on the fun too;
they have a downtown farmer's market that runs adjacent to the Palisade
Peach Festival. Block after block of the city's main drag is closed to
motor vehicles and instead filled with pedestrians shopping, eating and
dancing to music by the likes of one-man-band Bobby Walker. Every block
or so there's another entertainer and when the sun goes down you can step
out of the market and into Boomer's nightclub and rock out to local faves
like the Jerry Goodman Band.
Jerry Goodman Band
The micro-climate that makes the peaches
so perfect around here is also great for growing wine grapes. This is another
reason that the Palisade Peach Festival is so popular; visitors can make
side trips to numerous area wineries and of course sample the wares. You
can even stay overnight at a winery if you wish; Two Rivers Winery in Grand
Junction hosts a ten-unit bed and breakfast.
Two Rivers Winery
They have outdoor concerts every summer
on the terrace at Grand River Vineyards in Palisade and many consider the
annual appearance of Denver-based soul singer Hazel Miller a "must do"
event. Hazel is a long-time local favorite and she gives her all to her
show with a huge set list filled with rhythm & blues staples made famous
by artists like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Don Covay. Fans bring
their own lawn chairs to the winery and purchase a bottle (or two!) of
the winery's red, white or blush to drink under the stars during the concert.
Surprisingly, little Palisade is also home
to a micro brewery and a distillery. At Peach Street Distillers you can
purchase (and yes, sample) their peach flavored vodka while the Palisade
Brewery serves up handcrafted beers with names like Farmer's Friend and
Red Truck Ale. And to think all of this is going on while just a few miles
away lonely coyotes look down longingly from atop the Colorado National
Monument. If only their lives were so peachy!
Peach Street Distillers
The 2009 Palisade Peach Festival will be
held August 13-16. More information: www.visitgrandjunction.com
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