VAIL — As of noon Thursday, nearly 1,300 cars were parked along Vail’s South Frontage Road.
The cars stretched from Ford Park all the way down to the Vail Cascade Resort, but according to town of Vail Public Works Director Greg Hall, the town has had a busier Fourth of July and a busier ski day in the past.
But the crowds that packed into Vail Village for the annual Vail America Days parade and later for live music and a fireworks show weren’t small by any stretch of the imagination. Concierges called restaurants in the late afternoon frantically looking for last-minute reservations for their guests the same way many visitors had frantically searched for close-proximity parking earlier in the day.
A look down Meadow Drive and Bridge Street just before 4 p.m. proved why the Fourth of July is typically the town of Vail’s busiest day of the year: There are people everywhere.
Vail America Days took on a 50th anniversary theme this year, wrapping up the festivities that have been going on since last November in honor of Vail’s 50th. The event also expanded to four days this year.
“We have been very busy and are pleased with the crowds and their enthusiastic response to the entertainment offered thus far by Vail America Days and the activities that are yet to come to close out the holiday weekend,” said Vail spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorn.
At the Manor Vail Lodge, near Golden Peak, Sales and Marketing Director Nicole Whitaker said business at its Fitz Lounge increased 75 percent over last year at the lounge’s special Fourth of July barbecue lunch.
Whitaker also noticed some out-of-the-ordinary business trends this week, though. She said last weekend’s occupancy was great due to the lacrosse tournament business, but occupancy dipped drastically July 2, but picked back up again July 3.
“One odd observation is we are seeing a lot of departures on Saturday versus Sunday,” Whitaker said. “We speculate it could be the impact of the construction on I-70 — travelers are leaving a day early to avoid heavy traffic delays.”
On the other side of town, the Antlers at Vail reported a Fourth of July holiday “every bit as busy as past years,” said General Manager Rob LeVine.
“Full is full,” LeVine said. “We’re a little different here, because so much of the Dallas Symphony stays with us, followed by The Philadelphia Orchestra — every year — that not much can really change. Overall though, it certainly seemed pretty jammed everywhere.”
Jammed is right. Drivers who parked on the South Frontage Road even found interesting ways to park into tight openings, many parking perpendicular rather than parallel near Lionshead Village.
The town’s roads and parking garages weren’t the only pieces of infrastructure seeing heavy use, either. Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said Friday was a busy day in town in terms of water use. She reported that the Vail wastewater treatment plant supervisor said Thursday was a little less busy than last year’s Fourth of July, though. The exact numbers, often referred to affectionately as the “flush factor,” won’t be available until after the weekend.
Johnson looked at numbers from last year’s Vail Farmer’s Market, where the Sanitation District has a water station, and said the Sunday before last year’s Fourth of July holiday was busier — the district poured 68 gallons of water for people. This past Sunday, they only poured 40 gallons, although it wasn’t as hot as it was last year, she said.
Because the Fourth fell on a Thursday this year, Johnson is expecting a busy market this Sunday.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at lglendenning @vaildaily.com or 970-748-2983.