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17th Annual Elk Fest takes over Estes Park

On Saturday and Sunday, Estes Park held its 17th annual Elk Fest in Bond Park, featuring Native American dancers, raptor programs, vendors and more.

An elk wades in the shade at the 17th annual Elk Fest in Estes Park Oct. 4 (Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman)
An elk wades in the shade at the 17th annual Elk Fest in Estes Park Oct. 4 (Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman)

Elk Fest is a celebration of the rutting season, or elk mating season, taking place typically in the September and October months. During the rutting season, onlookers pay particular attention to the bull elk’s bugling, the male’s high-pitched call to intimidate his male competitors. According to the Estes Park website, people from all over the world come and see the male elk crash antlers to compete for the females.

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“It’s my first time attending Elk Fest and it’s really fun. I live in Fort Collins, so it’s nice to get away to the mountains,” said CSU alumnus, Sam Stall. “I took one of the elk bus tours and heard the weirdest sounds from the male elk — like bizarre whistling sounds.”

The Elk Viewing Tours booth sold $5 tickets that included a bus ride to the location of the elk and a tour.  

We actually have scouts who follow where the elk go and then take bus-loads of people to see them,” said Susie Parker, a tour worker. “This year’s turnout is much better than last though, because last year’s Elk Fest was scheduled to happen only three weeks after the floods, so there was only about 30 percent of the people here now.”

Also attending Elk Fest last year was Omaha Tribe Pow wow dancer, Thomas Wadena. Wadena, sporting a traditional beadwork outfit made for him by his best friend, has frequented the fest for the past decade.

I do it to help out mostly, and I like to show my culture. I’ve been dancing all my life, and used to be nervous before, but now after so long it just feels natural to me,” Wadena said.

Stomping to the sound of a drum, Wadena and several other traditionally dressed Native Americans danced out on the green in Bond Park, encircled by an intrigued and supportive audience.

Native American performers were a highlight of the 17th annual Elk Fest in Estes Park Oct. 4 (Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman)
Native American performers were a highlight of the 17th annual Elk Fest in Estes Park Oct. 4 (Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman)

With a teepee in the center of the park and Danny Manyhorses, a Native storyteller and flutist on stage, the history and traditions of Native American people became highlights throughout the event.

“I’ve played flute for the White House three times and for the Pope at the Vatican,” said Manyhorses. “My flute songs are an extension of my prayers.”

In addition to the flute music, attendees had several entertainment forms to choose from, including a petting zoo, beer garden, raptor demonstrations and vendors.

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These white vendor tents sold handmade items such as birdhouses, photographs, elk jerky and leather goods.

Two-year Elk Fest vendors, Steve and Lydia Louscher, discussed their sale items with pride.

“We make everything by hand,” said Steve Louscher. “The pipes, satchels, shoes, even the leather we make.”

The wealth of hand-made items was just one of the many aspects symbolizing Colorado’s identity and culture, the Rocky Mountains providing a suitable backdrop for the festival, as well.

“I’ll definitely come back to this fest next year,” Stall said. “It’s fun for all different people really – I saw kids, couples, grandparents. I think there’s something for everyone.”

Collegian A&E Writer Caitlyn Berman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @CaitlynBerman.

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