How many ways can you eat a tasty Colorado peach?
After helping organize the annual Palisade Peach Festival Recipe Contest for the past two decades, Dixie Burmeister has seen her share of creative peach cuisine. But every year, new surprises emerge.
"We get the most awesome entries," Burmeister says. "We have fabulous pies, cakes, cheesecakes — recipes that people put tremendous work into."
The recipe contest is just a small part of the Palisade Peach Festival, an annual celebration that takes place at the peak of the harvest. Palisade, at the base of Grand Mesa about 10 miles east of Grand Junction, is surrounded by lush orchards that produce some of the nation's best fresh peaches — plump, juicy, tree-ripened beauties that fruit lovers throughout Colorado and several surrounding states eagerly seek every summer.
The first peach trees were planted in the Palisade area in the 1880s, and the region's mild micro-climate provided ideal conditions for a thriving industry to grow. A perfect combination of heat-absorbing sandstone cliffs surrounding the valley and the "million-dollar breeze" that wafts into the Palisade area from De Beque Canyon prevents early-spring frosts from destroying most of the sensitive peach blossoms, improving chances for a good harvest year after year.
The celebration includes an ice cream social, street dance and "passing of the torch" from the outgoing to the incoming Town Grouch. In addition to festival events at Riverbend Park, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a genuine Palisade experience throughout the weekend — from guided orchard tours and historical walking tours, to self-guided biking and rafting trips and the Sunday Farmers Market.
One of the most popular events is the Feast in the Field Dinners. Local chefs create five-course, farm-to-table meals celebrating Palisade's delicious peaches and pair courses with locally grown wines. The finishing touch is that the meals are hosted out in orchards for an added layer of ambiance with different local winery pairings each night. The Feast in the Fields Dinners are available on eventbrite.com or by calling the Palisade Chamber of Commerce at 970-464-7458.
For more information about the Palisade Peach Festival, visit www.palisadepeachfest.com