On the long, rambling road of history, only a handful of landmarks have survived the churn of the decades. We’re talking about culture-shaking icons such as Beanie Babies, the Macarena and the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series of CDs.
In other words:1990s trends that seemed disposable at the time, but that have come to define the decade for many people who weren’t there to experience it.
“Even if you never went to a Blockbuster Video to rent a VHS, or bought a Furby, you might still know someone who did,” said Andrew Novick, co-organizer of this year’s ’90s-themed Summer Scream at northwest Denver’s historic Lakeside Amusement Park.
The Aug. 24 event is the nonprofit Denver Film’s annual fundraiser, a night of revelry that follows a sold-out 2022 showing. The park comes to stunning life at night with dozens of vintage neon signs, but also live performances and installations. The adults-only, cocktail-touting event always has a theme — last year it was a Boardwalk-style stroll through Lakeside’s 115-year history — and this year’s is chasing 2022’s record attendance of 3,000.
Tickets, $75 each (and $10 less for Denver Film members), were still available as of this writing at denverfilm.org/summer-scream. They include not only entry but booze, funnel cakes and unlimited rides on the attractions.
Summer Scream producers Novick and Chris Getzan have returned with an eclectic lineup of Denver’s best independent performers as well as interactive games, displays and photo ops that celebrate the relatively carefree end of the 20th century. Bringing an actual ’90s vibe is crucial, Getzan said, especially for those 21-and-up attendees who were only born in (or alternately, weren’t even alive during) the decade of grunge, “Melrose Place,” and technophobic handwringing (remember Y2K?).
“You’re going to get the sort of New Year’s Eve party version of the 1990s,” said Getzan, who’s keeping specific concepts and imagery under wraps until the event. “The best film of the ’90s was probably ‘Pulp Fiction,’ which is a pastiche of Godard and Blaxploitation and all sorts of things. (Director) Quentin Tarantino managed to make that into something that was its own thing. So in that spirit of great mixtapes, we’re doing something similar, although it’s not like when you go to Disney and see Frontierland.”
“You might see the Log Lady from ‘Twin Peaks’ or a pro-wrestling match,’ ” Novick and Getzan wrote in publicity materials. “You might play Pogs … or choose between a red pill or a blue pill. You could find out what was really in ‘the box’ at the end of ‘Se7en,’ get a balloon animal and listen to Planet Soul’s ‘Set You Free.’ ”
Whether those references land or not, all attendees can expect comedians (Shanel Hughes, Carey Lieber), history (returning Lakeside historian and author David Forsyth), burlesque (Gale Force), stage curiosities (circus performers, a puppeteer, a magician), fortune tellers and more.
The mix of live and pre-produced entertainment has been embraced by Lakeside’s owners, who are notorious for ignoring private and fundraising rental requests for the affordable, family-owned amusement park.
“We had resounding kudos last year from the Denver Film folks, but also Lakeside folks, who are kind of hard to impress,” Getzan said. “They live in their own bubble so they’re always skeptical and asking, ‘Now, what is this you’re doing?’ It made us not want to repeat anything from last year, and inspired us to be even more surreal. We don’t want someone to see the same thing at some gallery in RiNo next week.”
Novick and Getzan caution that they’re not trying to re-create the ’90s in detail, just their own take on it.
“You could call the ’90s the ‘All of the Above’ generation,” Novick said with a laugh. “The ’60s were big, then the ’70s, then the ’80s, and then ’60s again. In the ’90s, we went from swing dancing to Cyndi Lauper and back again. It was a lot.”
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