September events begin playing bigger role

EAGLE COUNTY — Sorry kids, but school starts in the next few weeks. That family schedule changer also shifts the focus of events in the Vail Valley.

The valley’s event season starts in earnest in June, and the weeks until roughly Aug. 15 are packed with music, dance, food, art, youth sports events and more. The season so far has been a good one, with large crowds reported for just about anything that takes place on a weekend.

Those events — as well as weekend markets in Vail, Minturn and Edwards — draw thousands to the valley on weekends. Tournaments bring families to the valley for extended stays. Usually, the brief summer frenzy was about it, with the resort areas largely going into between-the-seasons somnolence in early September.

“A few years ago, people were talking about needing to do something over Labor Day,” said Sybill Navas, coordinator of Vail’s Commission on Special Events. “We basically invented Gourmet on Gore for that purpose.”

GETTING BUSIER

Labor Day is now one of the town’s biggest weekends, with events ranging from the Vail Jazz Party to the annual duck race to benefit the local Rotary Club.

Navas said this year’s September events are a bit different, meaning “busier.” There are a couple of popular automotive events, as well as the town’s long-running Oktoberfest celebrations and the relatively new Vail Living Well events.

The change in focus is obvious in Beaver Creek, too. Tim Baker, director of Beaver Creek Resort, said the resort’s September events are aimed more toward people who don’t have kids living at home. The new Rendezvous Music Festival is aimed more toward younger professionals, while the new German Auto Festival is aimed at older, upscale visitors whose kids in many cases have started their own adult lives.

Golf is popular from mid-August through September, too, Baker said, since the courses don’t see as much play as they do during the peak periods of summer.

While events can sometimes conflict, Navas said organizers have generally done a good job of not conflicting too much. And, as far as Baker’s concerned, the more the merrier.

“I’ve never heard a guest say there’s too much going on,” he said.

And, Baker added, if planners focus too much on trying to perfect a schedule, then they may inadvertently leave a few events off the calendar that guests might enjoy if they’re here.

OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH

This summer’s event calendar seems to be working well. Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said in an email that reports from his group — which books leisure and group business — show lodging and other indicators are pointing toward a record summer in the valley.

But, Romer wrote, there’s a real “opportunity” for growth in the middle of the week. Occupancy reports from local hotels shows a significant fall-off from Monday through about Thursday of most weeks.

Most people have to work, of course, and events probably aren’t the answer.

“We’d have very different attendance if we held the farmer’ market on a Wednesday — it wouldn’t be realistic,” Navas said.

Baker agreed, saying that travel patterns are well-established on weekends, even in homes without children. Even a big event probably wouldn’t have the same effect during the week that it would on a weekend.

That leaves group business in its various forms. There are always business-related meetings that take advantage of favorable weekday rates. And, with more restaurants open in September, there’s more for those people to do.

Navas added that some of the valley’s participatory events, including sports tournaments and other events for youngsters and adults, are stretching into weekdays, which helps bring overnight visitors. A kids adventure race in Vail this year will hold registration on Wednesday evening, bringing many families a day sooner than they’d usually arrive.

While events these days don’t generally conflict — at least in terms of their target audiences — somehow finding a mid-week event that could draw travelers might have a downside if existing group business made lodging more scarce.

And the pleasant fact remains. “We’ve stretched the season,” Navas said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 1, 2014 09:58PM Published Aug 1, 2014 11:20PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.