VAIL, Colorado - Memorial Day weekend is the one weekend that continuously eludes the town of Vail's Commission on Special Events as they look to round out the town's summer events calendar.
The commission met Wednesday morning for a meeting in which event producers touted the successes of the summer schedule's more popular events - the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Vail International Dance Festival, Hot Summer Nights and others - bringing the question about why Memorial Day weekend hasn't hosted a successful event more into the spotlight.
So the question has become, "What is the right event?"
With Beaver Creek's Blues, Brews and BBQ right down the road that weekend, the commission has generally agreed that the culinary and music event market - or the beer and brat event market, as Vail Councilwoman Margaret Rogers put it - is already tapped.
Adam Sutner, the former Vail Mountain marketing director who is now working as a consultant for the commission, identified five categories that he and some commission members as well as Vail Special Events Coordinator Sybill Navas and Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald identified as promising: Children's or family-oriented events, adventure sports, culinary, music and comedy.
There are two ways to approach finding the right event, he said. The town could put the five categories out there and wait for a response from event producers, or it could conduct some consumer research in the coming weeks to see which category would be the right fit.
"It's a quick, inexpensive way to add some stability to this process," Sutner said.
The commission approved to spend up to $5,000 on the research, which Sutner said should be finished in a few weeks.
One thing the research would try to gauge is consumers' interest in some kind of comedy festival, something that could incorporate families and wouldn't rely on unpredictable Memorial Day weekend weather.
Commission member Rayla Kundolf said a comedy festival could use hotel ballrooms and other indoor venues and it could incorporate children's comedy workshops, storytelling and improv, for example.
She also pointed to Second City, the famous improv group from Chicago, and said they could be a great partnership for Vail.
"They like to come here - we know people there," Kundolf said.
Commission member Jenn Bruno pointed out that Beaver Creek's Blues, Brews and BBQ festival tends to attract mostly locals, not overnight guests from out of town. This could be Vail's chance to tap into that market, she said.
Sutner alluded to the possibility of bringing in a recognizable name in comedy to headline the weekend. He said "comedians like that are not so expensive."
"All-in, (the event) would be a six-figure investment," Sutner said.
So the challenge for the research is to determine if comedy is something consumers who have been to Vail in summer and/or shoulder seasons want. The competition for such events in the region is light, Sutner said.
This past year Memorial Day weekend looked promising - the town had found a producer who was going to bring an outdoor adventure race, similar to Tough Mudder, to Vail for the holiday weekend. It was called Mojo Man, but producers ended up not having enough time to get permits in place and properly market the event, Navas said.
In a request for proposals issued by the commission in August, the board states it "will pay particular attention to proposals for an event over Memorial Day Weekend."
"The (commission) is willing to work with an event producer to design an event for the three-day weekend that could establish itself in the long term as the recognized kickoff to the summer season," the request reads. "Both indoor and outdoor festivities are encouraged."
Based on the research in the coming weeks on what consumers would best respond to, McDonald said that data could be added to the request for proposals as an addendum to guide proposals.
The research should provide enough insight into an event that could become Vail's kickoff to summer, Bruno said.
"I think this (research) will be in our best interest," Bruno said. "At the end of the day, we don't just want a locals festival, we want a locals and guest festival."
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