Fry You Well, Fry You Well, I’ll Cook You More than Words Can Tell…

21 Jul


Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

We at The Denver Catfish Festival pride ourselves on being respectful to any and all cultural milieus, regardless of creed, religious affiliation, politics, whatever.  We are especially mindful of the various sects and cults devoted to the appreciation of all of the wonderful and sumptuous forms of music that we are so fortunate to have at our disposal.  (Except for Phish, ironically.  Can’t stand Phish. Or Libertarians.)

With that in mind, we’ve recently been notified that the 2015 Denver Catfish Festival happens to fall on the same day as the birth date of one Jerome Garcia, a popular American musician from the twentieth century who toured with a band of loveable ragamuffins known in popular culture as The Grateful Dead.

More specifically, the news was broken to us thusly:

“Duuude, you’re not really gonna have the Catfish Fest on Jerry’s Birthday, are you?  All ‘e won do, messin’ up Jerry’s birthday.  Dude, I see how you are.”

Whoa, now, hold on there, my bewhiskered and tie-dyed confidant; tap the brakes, don’t kick over your liquid.  Have we not forgotten that Jerry Garcia performed “Catfish John” with acclaimed folksters Old & In the Way in 1973?  Then recorded the same snappy tune with The Jerry Garcia Band in 1975?  Or that Mr. Garcia is remembered as something of a fried food aficionado himself?

Have you not listened to the lyrics of one “Brokedown Palace,” a popular and oft-cited Grateful Dead ditty?

Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time, in my time, I will roll, roll, roll

Is it not obvious that he is singing as a catfish, by the waterside, making a bed of cornmeal in which to roll, roll roll?  To deny this connection is “…so closed-minded, bro.”

And would Mr. Garcia (and more specifically, lyricist Robert Hunter) not have loved our famed Catfish-inspired Haiku Contest?  According to this fella, the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” has a Haiku for a chorus!  (I disagree due to syllable placement, but still…)

We at The Denver Catfish Festival offer every assurance that we are mindful and respectful of Mr. Garcia’s birthday, and feel that if Mr. Garcia were with us today, he would give his every blessing to our marriage of Catfish and cornmeal.

To that end, I, your Dear Chairman, am in negotiations to have a portion the middle finger of my right hand amputated just before the festival begins as an homage and a show of respect; furthermore, we’re planning to hire some CU students to dirty up the scene at the festival gates and request “a miracle” for entry into the 2015 Denver Catfish Festival.  Also, an online ticket seller will be offering Denver Catfish Festival tickets at $10 grand a pop if you really want to get in the mood.

Heck, we might even play Truckin’, Sugar Magnolia, Touch of Grey, and/or a compilation of live songs (in which Donna wails her agonizing wail for hours on end) over the Catfish Festival Hi-Fi!

(Or, once Your Dear Chairman is sufficiently full of Catfish and Hush Puppies and Ice Cold Miller Lite and lively conversation, we might be persuaded to throw on that 8/1/73 Roosevelt Stadium show as an entry point to Catfish Festival After Dark.)

Rest assured, Happy Festivalgoers, this will be the Cornell ’77 of Denver Catfish Festivals!


Joe T., Chmn.


Fry Like an Eagle

17 Jul
A float in the shape of a giant catfish with a large stone placed on its head is drawn by festival goers during the annual Kanda  Myojin Festival parade in Tokyo Sunday, May 9, 2010. The fish is locally known as the symbol of earthquakes and the sacred keystone is believed to contain the power of temblors.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Catfish, he’s carryin’ the weight of the world…

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts!

I’m writing to you from what must be the far corners of the mind, that small but lively locale where insanity, poor judgement, and love of freshwater bottom-dwellers, fried cornmeal, and inexpensive, chemical-laden American canned beer intersect and flourish.

The Denver Catfish Festival Administrative and Labor crews attended a team-building retreat last weekend to the mountains of Colorado.  I was sitting in camp, allowing the bucolic splendor of the majestic Rocky Mountains to wash over my aura (having just finished a rather delicious hot link,) when one of our group spotted a large bird, only thirty feet above our site, flying erratically.  We looked more closely and saw that this was no ordinary bird; it was a bald eagle.  And not only was it a bald eagle, but a bald eagle with a live trout in its talons!  Its majesty knew no equal as it settled on the far end of a lush meadow and devoured its prey.

After chanting “USA! USA! USA!” until our many camp dogs began to bark with agitation, a notion shot through my mind with the immediacy of a Wells Catfish attacking a Spanish pigeon:

Yes, Fortuna, oh yes.  I have borne witness to your sign from above.  There will, nay, there must be a 2015 Denver Catfish Festival.

Therefore on Saturday, August 1st, we’re having a Catfish Festival.  The Denver Catfish Festival, to be more precise.  The first filet hits oil at 1:12 PM.  There will be no live music, nor any parades; there will be a Catfish-inspired Haiku competition and Catfish Festival After Dark.  And while this may be a more intimate gathering that in years past, we are over-the-moon excited to bring back what one ebullient festival attendee called “The Greatest Single Day of My Life.”

Who was that loquacious festival attendee, you ask?

It was my dog, the mighty Beagle, Little Dalton Hilliard.  And he may not have actually spoken those words, but his eyes said more than any mere speaker of words ever could.

So, there you have it.  We’ll provide the Catfish and The Hush Puppies, you provide witty repartee and a lawn chair, and let’s fry everything in sight.


Joe T., Chmn.

“Ask Me About Ideas for Getting Out of Prior Obligations in Order To Attend The 2015 Denver Catfish Festival!”

The Year of The Cat(fish)

8 Jul

DCF15 logo

8.1.15, 1:12 PM

Howdy from Hiatusport, Colorado!

1 Jun

Greetings, Former Catfish Enthusiasts,

We at The Defunct Denver Catfish Festival hope that you’ve enjoyed the past couple of years without us; we hope you’ve used this time to reconnect with loved ones, pursue careers, realize dreams, start your own festivals, seek the real meaning of life through the creation of wax figurines of aquatic life, etc…

For our part, we’ve spent the time away on a journey of introspection, anonymously drifting from town to town, selling leftover Catfish Festival accouterments and discarded Haiku Contest submissions in order to survive, looking for answers to life’s big questions, reflecting on Catfish Festivals past, enjoying complexions unmarred by presence of fryer oil, and rolling in the tens of dollars saved due to the cancellation of the 2013 festival.  We’ve looked into the darkness of our souls and, after much searching, seen what we think might be the hypnotic and disarming Catfish of Destiny staring back, waving a little fin, inviting us forward.

A couple of years older but no wiser or with any additional good sense, we now look to the future, namely August 1, and wonder if there’s just barely enough magic cornmeal tucked away in a burlap sack, just a bit more enchanted creamy liquid shortening  heart-healthy vegetable oil in an old dusty jug, and just a smidgen of enraptured propane in a rusty tank, all lying still and quiet in a deep, dark corner of the Denver Catfish Festival Groundskeeper’s Side Yard of Misfit Toys, waiting to be married in a congress of calamitous cuisine in an eleventh iteration of the Late Summer Classic, A New and Shockingly Unimproved Denver Catfish Festival.

There are hurdles aplenty to making this thing happen, first among them luring the Bayou Fryer 700-701 “Death Star” frying apparatus back to the Festival Grounds.  Enraged by The Festival’s cancellation, the hot-tempered outdoor appliance lit out for the southern border in the dead of a hot August night seeking its adventure and fortune in far-off lands.  Last we heard, the Death Star was aiding rebels as a doomsday weapon in battles against totalitarian rule in a little-known republic somewhere south of the Equator.

Next, we’d have to lure the staff back.  A major reason for The Festival’s collapse was the deplorable working conditions (even when pared with all-you-care-to-consume catfish and hushpuppies, dill pickles, and ice-cold Miller Lite, of course.) It’s difficult, nay, impossible, to tell at this point if two trips around the sun has healed the deep trauma of Festivals past.  Bringing the Setup Crew, Festival Day Crew, Enforcement Division, Haiku Judges, DJ’s, festival chefs, bartenders, groundskeepers, Council of Elders, and Sanitation Crew back together will possibly require an effort of some sort.  

The Sanitation Crew will be the most difficult to bring to the table–ten years of picking up cigarette butts, broken glass, and oil-smeared paper plates has left them bereft of even the most minor enthusiasms.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s up to the Merry Festivalgoers themselves.  If they find that their late summer Saturdays are better served in Colorado’s admittedly spectacular mountains, or on the sandy and violence-free beaches of Mexico, or in the climate-controlled utopia of a tranquil public library, or visiting family back east, back west, back north or back south, then we most definitely could not have a Denver Catfish Festival.  Would they forgive us for 2013’s travesty, for walking off stage just before the curtain fell?

We shall spend the next few days away from it all, pondering these weighty questions, comparing this situation to other hiatuses (hiati?) in the past (baseball strike, Widespread Panic’s year off, Coy and Vance replacing Bo and Luke for an entire season, VW’s disgusting decision not to import the new T6 Transporter) and try to figure out if there’s a way to make a decision on whether or not we shall ponder a possibility of discussing the notion of collecting our thoughts about considering a movement towards a committee’s engagement in the question of how, if, and should we should attempt to resurrect the archaic relic of a bygone era that is The Denver Catfish Festival.

Until then, enjoy the warm embrace of summer!  Revel in friendship and in celebration of this dazzlingly unpredictable and delicious little thing called Life!

Ooh-personal reminder–listen to Purple Rain in its entirety at once. Such a great summer album.  Ooh another reminder–Start letter writing campaign to get Widespread Panic to play “I Would Die 4 U” at Red Rocks.


Joe T., Chmn.

“Ask Me About The Existential Nothingness of Two Summers Without a Denver Catfish Festival!”


30 May
Yeah, it's been a good vehicle.  But sure does use a lot of oil...

Yeah, it’s been a good promotional vehicle for The Denver Catfish Festival. But it sure does use a lot of oil…


Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,

You’ve probably heard grumblings in the press about The Denver Catfish Festival’s myriad problems and issues and its woeful state-of-being.  We’re here to announce that news of our demise is greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Catfish Enthusiast Mark Twain, who was quoted as issuing this edict…shortly before his eventual demise.  Okay so maybe that’s a bad example.

The truth is, The Denver Catfish Festival Crew is working ’round the clock to present the most important, nay the most crucial Festival Of Your Entire Life.

Sure, we’ve had our bait stolen off the hook a few times this year.  First there was that unfortunate business with the Haiku Competition.  While we neither confirm nor deny the leaked report of a former staff member, the good news is that this year, we don’t have to go to the Four Corners of The Earth to find fabulous objects d’art for the Haiku Prize Packages!  We already have them!  And now it’s all Vintage!

And yes, there were some unfortunate goings-on at the Festivalgrounds this past January.  It’s never pretty when a Bayou Classic Bayou Fryer 700-701 with V-Channel Technology goes “over the falls.”  But on the bright side, the area of the floor affected by the mishap has been left with a healthy, radiant sheen.  Water literally beads up on its surface!  Not to mention, the spill was of pure vegetable oil.  What’s more organic than vegetables?  We probably did the earth a favor by returning its slippery bounty to the soil from whence it came.  There are little vegetable oil sprouts popping up all over the Festivalgrounds. So here again, we’re ahead of the game.  Our condolences do go out to the winter caretaker, though.  We try to give him a nice shiny nickel sometimes when we see him staggering around downtown in his tattered Festival uniform muttering “…catfish…catfish…catfish…” 

And finally, this lawsuit with C.H.U.M. is completely out-of-line.  As ardent Woody Guthrie fans (another catfish lover) we have always supported unions; however, the gentleman who was working at the Festivalgrounds over this past weekend and suffered his unfortunate fall was actually an undocumented worker from…Alabama.  With no Louisiana work visa documentation, he is barred from Catfish Handlers Union Membership and therefore cannot file claim against The Denver Catfish Festival.  As far as the bump on his head making him smarter, we’ve learned that on Monday he was able to pass his GED and has since been accepted into Bama’s Doctoral Physics program.  Congratulations, undocumented Bama person, err, student!  Roll Tide indeed!

Therefore, having wiped this nasty business clean like oil from a well-used Festival Table, we’re proud to announce that The Eleventh Annual Denver Catfish Festival is on!

The Eleventh Annual Denver Catfish Festival

July 20th, 2013

First Filet-hits-oil at 1:12 PM MDT

The Denver Catfish Festivalgrounds


Joe T., Chmn.

“Ask Me About Evading Charges Related to The Eleventh Annual Denver Catfish Festival!”

Image 28 May

The Oiling

21 Jan
All that remains is a white chalk outline.

All that remains is a white chalk outline.

Greetings, Fellow Catfish Enthusiasts,
With the overwhelming barrage of negative media coverage, by now you’ve surely heard about the ecological near-miss at the Denver Catfish Festival Grounds over the weekend.
While we realize that an active investigation is ongoing and that anything we say can and might be held against us, The Denver Catfish Festival Governance Committee feels that full disclosure of all of the troubling events of Saturday, January 19, 2013 to you, the faithful and passionate catfishionados, is more important than our right to remain silent. So please sit back, heat up some of that delicious fried catfish that you squirrelled away for winter, grab a warm cup of whatever suits you, and read on.
This past Saturday, the sun shone like late April. It was, by all accounts, an unseasonably and damn near unconscionably warm day for late January. But as the Denver Catfish Festival Winter Caretaker told a friendly passerby during the lovely, sun-splashed Colorado morning, “what are we supposed to do, pretend like it’s winter?”
Our esteemed and irreplaceable caretaker, an author who was hired to maintain the “Home of The Late Summer Classic” and is living on the grounds with his family during this offseason, woke up full of energy and vigor on Saturday. The voices that had been plaguing him, the voices brought on by the narcosis-inducting extreme isolation of a Rocky Mountain winter, had temporarily subsided with the onset of this oddly summer-like morning, leaving him eager to handle some of the jobs around the old place that needed doing. If he could get a head start now, there’d be less to do in the spring. It was important to keep the body active, even as the mind might retreat.
The first order of business was a review and upgrade of storage space. The Festival Grounds Main Hall, which is sublet in the fall months for LSU football game parties (and one dark and unfortunate Broncos game party) had grown cluttered with the detritus of the football partygoers’ troglodytical gameday rituals. New shelving would need to be built on the west wall to get things high up off the floor, especially with muralists coming to create a catfish-inspired floor painting sometime in March. The caretaker sourced the necessary construction materials and set to work, whistling a happy catfish song, measuring, drilling, wrenching, hammering, and holding the voices at bay.
By noon, two 2′ x 8′ sections of shelving had been mounted on the west wall. The Caretaker admired his work, enjoyed an ice-cold glass of green tea, and set about moving the floor items to the new space up above. He strained to lift the many storage tubs of Catfish Festival accoutrement, DCF Vanagon Fleet maintenance parts, and various other bins, tubs, and boxes of Festival equipment up onto the high shelves. Soon enough, he’d completed the difficult task.
But then, with a furrow of his brow and a crinkling of his bald but still somewhat youthful head, he scanned the south wall. Even with so much progress on the reorganization, he was not happy with the remaining clutter.
Maybe, he thought, tapping his pointer finger to his lips, I could move that wrapped-up canopy back towards the corner, then put those two sand bags more towards the large door to the east side, then put those DCF signs over by the…No, that’s not going to work. Maybe if I moved that stack of chairs over here, then…No, that won’t work either. The key to this whole thing, the thing that the whole de-cluttering operation hinges on, the only way to make this work is…
Man’s hubris is a strange and complicated thing. What makes a man, who knows damned well in his rational mind that some things are just too heavy to lift, too dense and grounded to move, and simply too powerful to affect, blindly go against everything he knows in his heart to be right and correct? What makes him attempt things that have already been proven impossible? What makes a man, an admittedly marginally fit and by no stretch of the imagination particularly strong man, a man who spent five hours building shelves and lifting storage tubs while artfully fencing a mild but stubborn Miller Lite hangover, think he can defy both his physical and mental boundaries, break through the dam of natural limitation, and awkwardly grasp a 150 lb. cast iron and plate steel Bayou Fryer Death Star loaded to the gills with five gallons of competition-grade vegetable oil?
The voices, that’s what.
The opportunities that the oddly warm day presented were certainly not lost on the caretaker’s wife; she had headed to the little village down the trail from the Catfish Festival Grounds to run a few errands while her husband worked in the Main Hall. She was excited to check out the village library and to grab some fresh written, audio, and video catfish media. She knew from experience that without a near-constant diet of catfish-related stimuli, her husband would grow irritable and confused. She was also to drop one of the children off at a villager’s home for an afternoon play date. They walked along the trail, holding hands and humming “Catfish Blues” by Jimi Hendrix.
“Mommy, what’s the little girl’s name?”
“I think it’s Kat.”
“I don’t think it’s Kat, mommy. I think it’s REYRF,” she said, her finger curling down with each syllable, “REYRF. REYRF! REYRF!”
“Honey, what is that, Icelandic? These people are not Icelandic.  I think it’s Kat. Short for Katvissa.”

It stood snug against the south wall, motionless but beckoning, the angular steel panels of its flat black exterior absorbing the afternoon sun. It’s not so big, he thought. Hell, this thing is half my size, if that. And it has handles. I can get this thing no problem. And it’s just four feet that I have to move it. I can do that without breaking a sweat, even with it topped-off, full of oil. Why was it full? Ah yes, he remembered. The LSU-Auburn game. We fried boudin balls, crawfish pies, meat pies, and the piece de resistance, my wife’s incomparable homemade eggrolls. The partygoers from the village’s LSU alumni group were ecstatic (and later swollen and uncomfortable.) He’d planned on draining the Death Star right after, but time had gotten away from him. No worry, I’ll kill two birds with one stone and go ahead and drain it just as soon as I get it moved away from that wall. It really is the key to this whole thing. It has to be moved. Then I can get back to building that last stand of shelves.
The Caretaker approached from the side and grasped one handle, feeling the full weight of the thing, this dark machine, this Death Star. I got this. He grasped the handle of the other side, having to bend his back and lean in awkwardly to get a good grip. Foolishly lifting with his back, he found the fryer to be far heavier than he’d expected, but still manageable. He backed off of lifting and instead pulled, sliding it across the smooth concrete floor. Good, he thought, good. I can slide it out to where I’ll get a better handle on it. I could slide it the whole way, but now that I’ve got a little momentum, a little confidence, I’ll just slide it out a bit then lift it over this little pile of paper that I swept into a pile earlier. Getting his footing he grunted and lifted with his legs. Oh shit this thing is heavy. Just a few inches off the ground will get me over this paper obstacle. Just a little bit more. He took a step. Heavy. Starting to tremble slightly. The oil inside sloshed the opposite way, energy unleashed. The force went hard to the right, against the Caretaker’s balance.
Slow motion. It was going over, and nothing would stop it now. He held on for dear life as the right side legs crashed to the concrete then slipped underneath, taking his legs with it. The full weight of the Death star came down upon his right arm and shoulder as they hit the ground. He immediately felt the blood of the beast, the lukewarm, silent oil, pour over his right side as he lay motionless.
Then he heard laughing. It was the voices. They were laughing at him.
Snapping to, he jumped up to see a neighbor rushing towards the open doors of the Festival Hall. “Everything’s OK!” he said nervously, “No problem, just dropped something!”
The oil was quickly spreading along the slope of the floor, heading for the daylight of the east side of the hall’s great doors, heading inexorably towards the decorative shrubbery outside. The caretaker, on full adrenaline now, remembered his training.
“Kitty litter!” he said aloud, and ran to the west wall of the hall, finding a half-full bag of litter waiting. He feverishly poured a damn in front of the golden, shimmering, onrushing oil. He then ran back across to get paper towels, losing his footing and hitting the floor with a thud, wind partially knocked out of his lungs.
Jumping up, he grabbed paper towels and shop rags, dropping them along the northern flank of the onrushing deluge.  Frantically, he wiped off his hands and pulled his phone from his pocket, quickly snapping a really good photo of the carnage (actual photo shown above.)

After the obligatory upload of the photo to Facebook, and a few minutes to make sure the picture and smarmy caption were uploaded successfully, he grabbed the shop vac and started sucking, and sucking, and sucking, all the while the voices in his head laughing, and laughing, and laughing.
In North Louisiana, in the shaded small towns and villages along places like Toledo Bend Reservoir, Caddo Lake, and Lake Bistineau, in the muddy confines of Bayou Pierre and Cane River, the old timers talk of the legend of the mischievous spirits of catfish past, spirits which roll about in cornmeal ghosts and find the mystical strength to toy with the silly humans who worship their delicious earthly combination. These crafty catfish spirits remind us that while we might do all of the frying, the eating, the drinking, and the celebrating, they still have the ability, when they choose, the play a powerful role in the offseason maintenance of the Denver Catfish Festival Grounds.

The Caretaker has some bumps and bruises, but he’ll physically recover. The voices have left him alone. For now. He and his family are staying on at the Festival Grounds for the remainder of the offseason. The work will not wait. It must be completed before…

The Eleventh Annual Denver Catfish Festival
Summer 2013

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