Josh Sampson is a Brooklyn transplant who has been calling Denver home since 2014. His big idea is The Big Wonderful (TBW): a new classic bazaar, beer fest, and con- cert-festival over two days on an awesome site in RiNo, which he founded the same year he moved to the city. After a stint in Los Angeles, Denver “sprang up as a place to kind of try out some new ideas.” Wanting to inject some of the city style he loves, Sampson started TBW in a vacant parking lot in with an urban farm on it. By the third season he was expanding into Littleton and Aurora.
But what is TBW? Samson said, “Bringing that authentic maker and artist and musician and chef, and making them the star;” that’s really what it’s all about. The name comes from a comedy show called The Big Terrific, a #1 rated show at a club in Brooklyn back when Sampson was there.
Regarding the Denver collaborative art scene, Sampson is clear: “Where you can be specific in San Francisco or New York on a food style, Denver’s very much a generalist town. The inspiration was really that catalyst: somebody needed to put them all in a room and see what we got.” It’s a big tent idea, a carnival of creation and music and consumption.
“With all of the inventory of events that are coming into Denver, TBW as a brand name really stands out,” Sampson said. And that makes sense. The madness and harmony of TBW is striking. Zero waste and urban farm- ing alongside shipping containers and graffiti pieces; overturned cable spools adding to the “Mad Max vibe”; bands going H.A.M. as locals sway and swig regional beers; food trucks scenting the air with hints of the goodness prepared by the Front Range’s best chefs; all of this combines to create the TBW idea of an urban carnival for the modern shopper.
A project that has spawned a devoted following, in addition to a dedicated coterie of imitators, TBW is now a full blown Colorado movement. “It’s been so powerful that a lot of people have tried to do something similar. It’s not a chemical formula. You see a lot of the elements borrowed, and sometimes abused. We get so many positive responses.”
The Big Wonderful is open to expand- ing into other states, so let your local crafts-folk know to get in touch. Sampson thinks there are a lot of cool opportunities for TBW as it grows: “We have natural demand from other cities who want a Big Wonderful,” he said. He hopes to continue disrupting the hyper-expensive, placeless, anti-democratic consumer marketplaces with the authentic, small-vendor aggregate model that TBW has perfected here in Denver.
But TBW can only grow as consumers develop “more of a taste for local foods, supporting local businesses and understanding that giving back to a Texas Roadhouse doesn’t give any money back into the local economy.” Denver is a prime example of a city where small vendors are getting priced out of storefront locations,” Sampson said: “They need something like TBW to keep [them] afloat.”
The Big Wonderful recently put on the Fourth Annual Octobergrass event; it’s season finale featuring the best bluegrass bands Colorado has to offer. But if bluegrass isn’t your cup of tea, no biggie: with events throughout the year and throughout Colorado, it’s easy to find a TBW event that’s perfect for you to attend. Show up, have fun, sip some, support local vendors and dance a little bit.
The Big Wonderful wants to see the wonderful in you and give it a place to shine.
All photos courtesy of The Big Wonderful.