VAIL — For years, Vail America Days has followed a formula — a parade in the morning, a concert in the afternoon and fireworks at night, interspersed with many hours of, well, not much, really.
That formula has been tweaked significantly this year. There are more Fourth of July activities in town than ever, and since Independence Day falls on a Thursday, additional activities through the weekend.
The idea of filling up Independence Day weekend in Vail was hatched just a few months ago, which meant the folks at Highline Sports and Entertainment — the producers of this year’s activities — were under a tight deadline.
“It’s been a challenge,” Highline co-founder James Deighan said. “We didn’t have the benefit of planning a year out ... It was a lot of work in a short time.”
But Highline has a long history of pulling together Vail events, so the events and activities all came together.
The bands performing throughout the day Thursday are mostly based in the valley, as are most of the food vendors.
The bands’ styles range from rock to country, from Dixieland to bluegrass, all of which are thoroughly American.
The food vendors, too, will be serving American favorites, as a way to celebrate the country.
Vail America Days this year is also the final hurrah in the year-long celebration of Vail’s 50th anniversary, with parade participants all asked to somehow include the theme of that anniversary in their floats.
A couple of Vail business owners — both of whom helped oversee the planning for the weekend — said they’re eager to see the results of the promoter’s work.
Jenn Bruno and her husband, Luca, own two Luca Bruno clothing stores. Both are either along or near the parade route. The Brunos and their kids usually set up a viewing station along Meadow Drive, outside Luca Bruno Due, to watch the parade.
For the past few years, the kids have sold beads and lemonade, with proceeds going to local nonprofits — this year it’s the Vail Valley Veterans’ Program.
As a resident, Bruno said she’s happy that she can take her family to an event that draws so many people and have the kids learn about raising money for good causes in the bargain.
“As a business owner, I’m really excited that we’ve taken such a great family celebration and created a weekend festival,” Jenn Bruno said. It really gives the guests a lot to do.”
The “lots to do” element of the celebration may keep people in town for more than just a day or a quick overnight trip.
Those who do stay for the weekend will have plenty awaiting them, from running events to kids’ activities to even more music.
The long-running Vail Lacrosse Shootout will help, too, with both regular tournament games and special exhibitions for those interested in learning the sport. The new activities will also attract some of the few thousand people who attend the shootout every year.
With the Fourth potentially expandable to a four-day weekend this year, Masters Gallery owner Rayla Kundolf likes the new “festival” concept.
“I love the new look of Vail America Days,” Kundolf said, from the new logo to the expanded schedule.
And, she said, the quirks of the calendar might make this a good year to lay the groundwork to create a multi-day celebration.
With the Fourth on Thursday this year, the holiday will be on a Friday in 2014. That means Vail America Days could become a three-day event.
Since the holiday falls on Saturday in 2015, then a Monday in 2016 — a leap year — a few years of three-day weekends might provide the traction an expanded Vail America Days needs to become a long-weekend fixture on the calendar.
However the idea for the long weekend works out, the Brunos will be out in front of their Meadow Drive store, as they always are.
Kundolf will take her traditional place, too, across the street on the deck of LaBottega.
“We don’t open ‘til noon that day just so I can watch the parade,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.