The brainchild of Henry Lowenstein, the Bonfils Theatre’s Festival Caravan was a program of free shows that traveled with a portable stage to Denver area parks for several weeks in the summertime from 1973 – 1985. Focusing on the rich diversity of the metropolitan area, Festival Caravan presented a wide range of exciting entertainment. It was truly a celebration of different cultures presented under the stage lights and the stars!

Helen Bonfils had produced the Denver Post Operas for over 30 years, presenting free-to-the-public shows each summer at the pavilion in Cheesman Park. After her death in 1972, funding for such lavish productions was stopped. Bonfils producer Henry Lowenstein conceived of a portable stage that could bring shows to the public, instead of requiring all to attend a single venue. The Festival Caravan was warmly welcomed everywhere it played.

The 1973 and 1974 seasons were presented on the City of Denver’s Show Wagon, a trailer with a side that swung up and allowed performers to play on the trailer floor. Later, a custom trailer-based portable stage complete with lighting, sound and an upper deck was created. Combined with a pair of rental trucks and the theater’s small, trusty “Tonka Truck”, Festival Caravan became a fully independent stage that travelled to most city parks within Denver, and toured the state of Colorado in summer, 1975.

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Videos about Festival Caravan

The University of Denver’s Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library produced a documentary in 2017 about Festival Caravan. It is presented below by permission:

Home movies by the crew: This is most likely clips of warmups for a performance of “Shango De Ima” in 1977. The crew can be seen loafing and playing frisbee, but they definitely had hard work to do setting up and tearing down each day. The show featured the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and was directed by Buddy Butler. Super 8 film converted to digital and donated by Dave MacEachen (see if you can spot him in the video). Thanks, Dave!

Photos of Festival Caravan

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List of Festival Caravan Productions

Shows were presented in the summer leading into the regular season; the first production was presented in summer, 1973 as part of the ’73-’74 season.

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73-74Festival Caravan I – Broadway in the ParkShyleen Qualls, M.C.; John McCallum Pianist; Kurt Goletz With The Big Band; Ballet Folklorico Mexicano De Graciela Tapia
73-74Festival Caravan II – Variety ShowThe Lawmen; Cleo Parker Robinson Dance; Jimmy Carter; Keith Avedon; The Family Jam And The Inner City Choir Of Denver In Avedon’s Mass
73-74Festival Caravan III – Music ShowKeith Avadon’s Survival Mass With Family Jam And Inner City Choir
74-75Festival Caravan I – Variety ShowAndres Neidig, MC; Jodi Randall, Singer; Los Preguneros Del Puerto; The Trujillo Dancers
74-75Festival Caravan II – Variety ShowShyleen Qualls, MC; United Mime Workers; Jim Turner, Saw Player; Ron Henry & Pride
74-75Festival Caravan III – Ti-Jean And His BrothersBlack Arts West of Seattle, WA
75-76Festival Caravan I – Colorado QuestAn original play funded by the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities that presented Colorado History.
75-76Festival Caravan II – Variety ShowStanding Bear Sioux  Indian Dancers; Ron Henry & Pride; Cleo Robinson Dance Ensemble
75-76Festival Caravan III – El Fin Del MundoEl Teatro Campesino performing
75-76Colorado Quest – Colorado Centennial Tour 
76-77Festival Caravan I – La Carpa De Los RasquachisEl Teatro Campesino
76-77Festival Caravan II – Vaudville Show Al Fike, MC; Mike and Barbee; Trio Flamenco; Arch Jeffries, Magician; Dick Kroeckel, Ragtime Piano; The Centennial Town Band & Marching Society
76-77Festival Caravan III – Red White and BluesBlack Arts West of Seattle, WA
77-78People’s Fair 1977 
77-78Festival Caravan I – Shango De Ima 
77-78Festival Caravan II – Variety ShowPuppets, Poetry and Pandemonium; Danaberry Puppets; Arina (Sue) Isaacson; Boo-Lu the Clown; Lallo Delgado, Poetry Music and Humor; Circus of Earthly Delights Featuring: the Swami Amazo and Lady Sasha; Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl With El Grupo Aztlan
78-79Festival Caravan I – The Me Nobody KnowsPreshow by Paratakee Oree
78-79Festival Caravan II – PrimaveraShyleen Qualls M.C.; Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotle; El Grupo Atzlan
79-80Festival Caravan I – Chronology Cuatro Epocas 
79-80Festival Caravan II – Sounds Of SummerChampagne Strings/Fran Feese; Seesaw Little Theatre For The Deaf And Hearing; Naomi Katzmir
79-80Festival Caravan III – For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf 
80-81Festival Caravan I – Daystar 
80-81Festival Caravan II – In The House of Blues 
80-81Festival Caravan III – Dance Denver DanceBallet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotle & El Grupo Atzlan; Denver Civic Ballet; Cleo Parker Robonson Dance Ensemble
81-82Festival Caravan I – Working 
81-82Festival Caravan II – The Klezmorim 
81-82Festival Caravan III – No Maps On My Taps 
82-83Festival Caravan I – Tintypes 
82-83Festival Caravan II – Festival De Colores 
82-83Festival Caravan III – Massenkoff Russian Folk Festival 
83-84Festival Caravan I – Ain’t Misbehavin’ 
83-84Festival Caravan II – Dondines Dances Of The Americas 
83-84Festival Caravan III – Avaz 
84-85Festival Caravan I – Is There Life After High School? 
84-85Festival Caravan II –  Variety ShowCarib-Tokyo Steel Orchestra; Prince Rupert Dancers
85-86Festival Caravan I – Macondo 
85-86Festival Caravan II – Bubbling Brown Sugar 

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