VAIL, Colorado - It's no shocker to hear that a culinary event got the most interest during research conducted by the town's Commission on Special Events - everybody likes to eat.But for those who truly love to eat - and eat well - culinary events have been popping up all over the calendars in well-known foodie cities like New York and Las Vegas, as well as resort towns like Vail and Beaver Creek. Last month, culinary heavy hitters like John Besh and Gail Simmons were in Beaver Creek for its Food & Wine Weekend, and if all goes as planned, more foodie celebrities will be spending their Memorial Day weekends in Vail for a culinary event being proposed as FEAST! Vail.Highline Sports and Entertainment, the event producer selected by the town of Vail's Commission on Special Events and Vail Local Marketing District, told the Vail Town Council Tuesday night that FEAST! Vail could be the answer to the Memorial Weekend blues the town has endured over the years. With potentially sunny, snowy, warm or frigid weather that weekend, finding the right event that draws people to town has been a challenge to say the least. But with a weather-neutral event where people can eat, interact and get their hands dirty, the hope is that Highline and the town of Vail could transform Vail from a ghost town in late May into a hopping center of delicious culinary entertainment. Jeff Brausch, president of Highline, said the weekend is a huge opportunity for "something that gives us the momentum to kick off the summer in a great way and use that momentum to carry us into the heart of summer."While there's confidence, there's also competition that could be fierce. The popular Bolder Boulder race is Memorial Day weekend, and even here in the valley there's a Beaver Creek event - Blues, Brews and BBQ - that has been wildly successful in recent years mostly among locals and Front Rangers.But the town's research shows that people who identify themselves as foodies like Vail. So how will this event differ from Beaver Creek's Food & Wine Weekend, Taste of Vail, Gourmet on Gore and other events, asked Councilwoman Kerry Donovan.Katie Tille, of Highline, said the programming is what will set FEAST! Vail apart. The platform is Vail versus somebody, meaning Vail's chefs will battle against chefs from Denver in the first year, and perhaps national and international chefs in upcoming years depending on the event's success.May 1 is the date the marketing message is expected to kick off on the Front Range, marketing consultant Adam Sutner told the council. He said the marketing plan includes everything from social media to newspaper and radio advertisements, as well as leveraging the guest chefs' customer bases from the Front Range and customer databases from Gourmet on Gore, among others.Sutner said there's strong, passionate support for the event from the local restaurant community. The inaugural year goal is for 2,000 incremental visitors in town, and Sutner said there's potential to far exceed that number in the future. The town council gave Highline its approval on the concept and has already committed $85,000 toward funding the event.Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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