Fourth of July week: ‘It’s like Christmas’
June 30, 2014
Starting July 3, the Vail Valley is packed with events for the Fourth of July. Here are three of the biggest.
• Salute to the USA, July 3: Avon’s annual celebration — and giant fireworks show — draws thousands to Nottingham Park.
• Vail America Days, July 4: Is Vail ever more full of people than it is on the Fourth of July?
• Minturn Market, July 5: This event is always a big draw. Combine it with a holiday weekend, and our old railroad town is even busier.
EAGLE COUNTY — We all talk about the Christmas through New Year's holiday period, Presidents Day weekend, spring break and Easter — all high points on the ski season calendar — as peak times in the Vail Valley. But summer has one of those "full-up" holidays, and it's the Fourth of July.
Looking ahead to about July 3, the date of Avon's Salute to the USA party, the valley will be booked solid, or nearly so. And really, is Vail Village ever more full than it is for the Fourth of July parade?
There's little doubt that the Fourth of July is the peak time on the summer calendar, and rivals, if not exceeds, winter's top periods.
Susan Fairweather has worked most of this year as the town of Avon's economic development director. But she has spent much of her career in mountain resorts, most recently in Summit County, so she's familiar with the peaks and valleys of the tourism calendar. From her perspective, summer events bring more people, and a more broad-based group, to the resorts.
'We Get Everybody'
"Winter is for skiers, but in summer we get everybody," Fairweather said. And, while summer lodging rates in resorts are still less expensive than in winter, Fairweather said a town like Avon benefits from big crowds about equally, no matter what the season.
"Avon's a fairly moderately-priced place," Fairweather said, so a peak period's economic impact there is about the same in winter and summer. That's somewhat different in places such as Vail and Beaver Creek, where lodging rates between the seasons can be significantly different.
While summer may draw from a broader base of visitors, there are a lot of common elements between winter and summer guests.
Lance Thompson, general manager of The Sebastian hotel in Vail, said like winter seasons, he sees plenty of return Fourth of July business. Many families will book the same rooms if possible. And, Thompson said, many members of The Sebastian's "Summit Club" come for the Fourth of July as reliably as they do for winter holidays. Thompson said those club members, most of whom are second-home owners, "elevate the feel" around the resort, lending more energy to an already-busy place.
"I think they add to the tradition here," he said.
Tons of Activities
While winter has a relatively singular focus — the mountains — the sheer breadth of activities in the Vail Valley during the Fourth of July helps to drive people here.
"This is a true valley-wide effort," Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said. "You've got fireworks in Avon, the parade in Vail and the rodeo (in Avon). It's a really nice, consistent event."
All those events, combined with the demand on lodging, means some hotels charge a bit more for rooms during the holiday weekend. The Sebastian charges a bit more, Thompson said. In Avon, The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa used to charge a premium for rooms with views of the fireworks show, but general manager Jeff Burrell said that isn't the case this year.
Still, those premiums don't approach those charged for peak ski-season periods.
Spirit of Celebration
While there's plenty going on, Fairweather added that plenty of Front Range residents often come to the mountains with or without events.
Events such as Salute to the USA are for the community as much as guests, she said.
Fairweather said about the only thing that can put a damper on the Fourth of July is weather. That was the case in 2012, when a crippling drought cancelled fireworks shows around the state. The Salute celebration has also been snowed on — it's Colorado, after all — which also tends to keep people at home.
Other than that, though, Independence Day finds people ready to travel and to celebrate.
"It's like Christmas for the resort towns," Fairweather said. "It really has that much of an impact."