VAIL - Comedy is out and food is in based on the latest Vail Commission on Special Events discussion regarding a potential Memorial Day weekend event in Vail.The events board has been talking about bringing an event to Vail that would attract Front Range guests during a typically slow weekend. The board worked with marketing consultant Adam Sutner to identify what kind of event interests consumers most, and more importantly, what kind of event they would travel to Vail to attend.And even though Vail already offers culinary events - namely the Taste of Vail in April and Gourmet on Gore during the Labor Day weekend - the focus groups used in the research prove consumers are hungry for more."There was an overwhelming response to create a participatory culinary event," said events board member Jenn Bruno. Sutner said the comedy idea did solicit positive responses and the events board will likely pursue bringing a comedy event to town during another time, perhaps in January of 2014 during the soft period after New Year's Day. For now, though, the focus is on a Memorial Day weekend food event that engages visitors, he said.The board is working with Highline Sports and Entertainment, which produces Gourmet on Gore and Oktoberfest, among other events, to produce the event. Details are scheduled to be presented to the town council at its Feb. 5 meeting for final approval. Sutner said the event might include celebrity chefs and specialty dinners featuring those chefs in collaboration with local chefs. The chefs would be accessible and the events throughout the food weekend would be engaging, he said, and the key part of its success is that it's weather-neutral.A big reason that Memorial Day weekend in the valley is generally slow is because the weather is hit or miss. Because of the inconsistency in the weather - which ranges from summer-like to winter-like - the town has struggled to attract the right event to town that isn't weather-dependent."We think we can attract the Front Range families and couples and singles for something that really isn't offered," Bruno said.Bruno said the board thinks the event would complement the Beaver Creek Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, which takes place Memorial Day weekend and does have a loyal following. The town of Vail isn't trying to compete with that event, she said. "In a lot of ways we feel like we're adding to what Beaver Creek has over there," she said. "Participate in a Vail culinary event and then head over (to Beaver Creek) for the BBQ festival."The Vail food event is expected to feature everything from classes to tastings to pairing dinners and mixology events.Events board member Rayla Kundolf said the board is being very careful to set the event up for success. That's why members have taken their time to get it right, she said."It's very important that we don't set it up to fail," Kundolf said. Vail already has a culinary scene, Sutner said. The quality of the restaurants in town is something Vail consumers have come to enjoy and expect. While it's no Las Vegas or Napa Valley just yet, Sutner said Vail's size and restaurant culture is a strong driver in why people consider coming here.The research, conducted by Sutner, took insights from roughly a dozen people and then tested those responses in an email survey to about 4,000 people who have previously attended Vail food events. "We were astonished to see the enthusiasm of the participants both young and old," Sutner said. "This (reaction) is probably what accounts the success of things like the Food Network and celebrity chefs."Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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