5 things to do Labor Day weekend in Vail, Beaver Creek
August 31, 2017
It's the last holiday weekend of the summer, and Vail knows how to send off the season in style.
The valley is full of entertainment opportunities ranging from musical extravaganzas to Bavarian-style celebrations to a race of anthropomorphized rubber fowl and beyond.
So start digging out those lederhosen, put on your dancing shoes and get ready for Labor Day weekend in the Vail Valley.
Vail Jazz Party
Throughout the summer, the mountains have been ringing with the sounds of Vail Jazz. From intimate performances at the Vail Jazz Club series to standing gigs at the Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show, The Remedy and The Riverwalk at Edwards center, the Vail Jazz Festival has been creating a soundtrack to summer. But, as summer slips away, there's one more party to attend.
The Vail Jazz Party, now in its 23rd year, ensures that almost no moment need be silent. With a jam-packed lineup that starts Thursday, Aug. 31, and continues until Sept. 4, the event includes more than 35 headliners. Shows include group performances, multi-artist jam sessions and inspiring multimedia tributes to jazz legends. Featured for the weekend is the Vail Jazz Party House Band with John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash.
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Legendary musician John Clayton has been involved in the Vail Jazz Party since its inception. He leads the House Band and is also involved with the Vail Jazz Workshop, a program that runs concurrently with the Vail Jazz Party. He said it's why he keeps coming back each year.
"Nowhere will you find a situation where 12 of the nation's top young jazz musicians are chosen to be led by six world-class jazz pros for a week, focusing daily on technique, repertoire and performance," Clayton said. "Private lessons, ensembles, guidance on becoming a professional musician, college choices — these are some of the topics upon which these students receive direction. This unique experience for them keeps me coming back each year."
Among the longest-running programs of its type, the Vail Jazz Workshop gives talented student musicians an opportunity to study and be coached in an environment that emphasizes intense interaction with instructors and fellow students. The talented students also have the unique opportunity to perform alongside legendary professional musicians at the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend.
"I love hearing the students perform for the Vail audiences, that feeling of 'Oh yeah! That's why we've been burning midnight oil for a week!'" Clayton said. "I think the attendees enjoy hearing the students and pros alike. They're always impressed by the students, but leave it to the pros to get on stage and knock it out of the park!"
The event continues to grow each year, attracting international guests, but also gaining an enthusiastic following among locals. The Vail Jazz Party, and its continued dedication to world-class performances that you can't see elsewhere, is making Vail the place to be to see not only big names in music, but also to get a glimpse of the rising jazz stars.
Beaver Creek Oktoberfest
There are few events that honor the area's semi-Bavarian heritage as much as Oktoberfest. Beaver Creek is always the first out of the gate in celebrating, dedicating Labor Day Weekend to Bavarian fun.
The celebration kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 11 a.m. with a beer garden, authentic Bavarian food, Kids' Fun Zone and live music from Lech- Zurs, Austria-based band Trachtenkapelle, where there are sure to be a few renditions of the chicken dance.
But the weekend is about more than just stein-raising and appearances by local legend Helmut Fricker. There's plenty of opportunity for a little friendly competition, too.
The Bavarian costume contest that will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, and the Oktoberfest Shuffle (which consists of a 5K, 10K and 1K family fun run) and alpenhorn contests (for both kids and adults) will take place on Sunday, Aug. 3. So no matter what your particular prowess, there's a chance for you to put your name in the Oktoberfest history books.
The beer garden and live music events are free to enter, so settle back and stay for a while. The rock 'n' roll sounds of Beatles tribute band Hard Day's Night will delight crowds on Saturday, Sept. 2, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and Mark Wood and the Parrot Head Band (a Jimmy Buffet tribute band) will have everyone in a island state of mind on Sunday, Sept. 3, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Vail Rotary Duck Race
Then there are the Dirty Harrys of the event world, asking, "Do I feel lucky?"
Well, do ya, duck?
The 19th annual Duck Race, the most important fundraiser for the Vail Rotary Club, will take place on Sunday, Sept. 3. With the opportunity to win $5,000, and the chance to win $1 million, there are plenty of opportunities to pick a lucky duck.
However, the lucky ducks are really the recipients of the Rotarians.
"The majority of the money stays local," said Chris Aubel, Vail Rotary's president elect. "It goes to nonprofits like the Cycle Effect, the Child Literacy Project and SOS Outreach as well as programs like scholarships for high schoolers and third-grade dictionaries."
About 12,000 ducks will take to the water under the Covered Bridge, racing (or bobbing) along Gore Creek until one duck is crowned the definitive winner as it crosses into the finish chute at the International Bridge. This duck will net its (randomly assigned) adoptive owner $5,000.
"We've done it for so long and it has such an institutional vibe in the Vail Valley — everyone knows what it is," Aubel said. "It's a great weekend in Vail and there are lots of people in town; this creates a lot of excitement. It's just a really fun event that creates a good feeling in the community."
Ducks are being adopted at the Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show on Sundays until the day of the race; ducks will also be available for adoption the day of the race. One duck (or "quacker") is $10; packages of three, five, nine or a fleet of 20 are also available. You don't have to be present to win, but half of the fun is the thrill of the race.
Gourmet on Gore
The open-air culinary event Gourmet on Gore returns to Vail Village for its 12th year on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1 to 4, bringing world-class wine, beer, spirits and culinary delights to the streets of Vail.
New events this year will also bring attendees to the trails of Vail and the promenade of Gore Creek for sipping, sampling and a bit of outdoor adventure.
The event schedule includes two new programs this year. The U at Gourmet on Gore will take place on Gore Creek Promenade in Vail Village on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2 to 3. Situated alongside Vail's Gore Creek, The U inspires peaceful and thoughtful tasting experiences with an emphasis on cultivation. Each 30-minute workshop will offer an opportunity to dive into a culinary topic including beers such as Stella Artois, wines, cheese pairings, Belgian chocolate and more. These seminars are complimentary and open to the public on a first-come first-served basis.
Also new this year is Gourmet, Let's Go. offering the opportunity to enjoy Vail locals' favorite outdoor activities while sampling from some of Vail restaurants. From complimentary community yoga at Solaris to a culinary cruiser ride or a trail to table trek, these new events allow you to choose your adventure before tasting offerings from some of Vail's top culinary talent.
Gourmet on Gore's open-air tastings take place along Vail's Gore Creek Drive and International Bridge, showcasing Vail Valley's premier restaurants and libations from around the world. Food and drinks create an epicurean atmosphere in Vail Village.
The event will kickoff with the Tasting Tour on Friday, Sept. 1, which will benefit Vail Veterans Program. Tickets are available for purchase online. The open-air tastings take place on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 to 2, with complimentary admission and pay-as-you-go bites and pours. The new free seminars at The U at Gourmet on Gore and the ticketed excursions hosted by Gourmet, Let's Go will also take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Monday's Brunch Off Bridge Street, which follows the same pay-as-you-go format, will close out Gourmet on Gore.
For final details and the full schedule of events, visit the Gourmet on Gore's website, http://www.gourmetongore.com.
Follow Gourmet on Gore on social media for updates and more information.
Of course, there are tons of events occurring over Labor Day weekend in Vail.
It's also the peak of farmers markets in the valley. Stock up for those Labor Day barbecues at the farmers markets in Minturn and Edwards on Saturdays, then peruse the stalls at the Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show on Sundays. Each market has its own flavor but features fresh picked produce in addition to locally made products and gift items. Go early, leave happy.
No matter how you choose to spend your Labor Day weekend, be sure to savor the last sips and sounds of summer. We may get a few more glorious weeks, but an action-packed weekend like this won't come around again until next year.
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