EAGLE COUNTY — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in most of the U.S. But summer can seem a long way off if a late-May snowstorm hits.
Nature aside, people are eager for summer, whether it’s loading up the family truckster for a quick trip to the high country or local residents looking to soak up some sun. In Eagle-Vail, Memorial Day for several years has kicked off summer with the opening of the neighborhood’s public pool. Jeff Layman is the director of the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District, the elected body that governs the neighborhood. He said residents expect the area’s summer recreation options to be open by Memorial Day.
“We expect to have all 18 holes open at the golf course this weekend,” Layman said. “The pool’s going to fire up, and the trails are clear of snow.”
The golf course and the pool draw some big crowds during warm weather. Layman said a group of Eagle-Vail residents has for several years had weekly Sunday night get-togethers at the pool, and it all starts Memorial Day.
Out in the resorts, people in Vail have for several years tried to land a Memorial Day event that could draw both locals and Front Range visitors, whether or not the weather cooperates. Feast Vail is the latest attempt to create that attraction.
Now in its second year, the foodie festival has expanded some of its offerings, dropped others and still has the option of sending people either inside or under cover if the need arises — the current forecast is for sunny weather and temperatures in the 60s this weekend, by the way.
Alison Wadey, the director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said the festival is “hearing more interest” about the event from both local businesses and potential visitors.
“We started getting calls about two weeks ago from people on the Front Range asking what’s going on up here,” Wadey said. For the past few weeks, the answer has been “great room rates and outstanding restaurant specials” and not much else. An event like Feast Vail has the potential to lure a few more weekend travelers, she said.
“These people aren’t in the high-season demographic,” Wadey said. “But they like to see that something’s going on and they can still find some very affordable (lodging rates).”
Still, Feast Vail isn’t quite established enough to be a big draw on its own.
Bob McCleary, Manor Vail Lodge general manager, said that lodge has seen some interest from potential Feast Vail visitors. But, he added, it generally takes three years or so for an event to become a draw.
James Deighan, of Highline Sports and Entertainment, the promoter of Feast Vail, agreed with McCleary’s assessment, and said he believes the Memorial Day event has made good progress from it’s inaugural year to this year.
“We’re solidly on track,” Deighan said. “It should be a great event this year.”
And a good event can help set the table for a successful summer.
Beaver Creek for years has kicked off its summer season with the Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival. That event started with a beer-tasting event in the 1990s, and has continued to add elements.
Buzz Busby, Coyote Cafe general manager, has watched the event grow with particular interest, since he’s involved with a competitive barbecue team. Busby said adding a barbecue competition to the weekend’s events has added a new element that attracts even more people.
The competition, now in its third year, is coming into its own now, Busby said. Beyond that, though, Busby said the Coyote generally bustles during the weekend.
This year’s beer tasting will be held on the slopeside lawn outside Gerald R. Ford Hall, with other activities on the plaza. Robert Purdy, general manager of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, home of Ford Hall, said a new rule this year allows people to wander between the beer tasting and other events while carrying drinks. That should lead to more mingling.
While this May has been a good one for the Hyatt, with numerous professional groups taking advantage of spring rates for rooms and meeting space, Purdy said “leisure” travelers coming for the weekend have the Hyatt already booked full for Saturday, with just a few rooms left for the rest of the weekend.
Blues, Brews & BBQ and other events are “critical,” Purdy said.
“They give people a reason to come,” he said.