In the days before radio and television came to Vail, the void was filled by enterprising community members who created their own form of entertainment. There were the goofy melodramas written and produced by longtime mayor John Dobson. And who could forget The Great Race end-of-season obstacle course known for its daring dashes and splashes or the many impromptu parades that have lifted our spirits. Over time, we’ve seen these events evolve from activities that were spawned for our own enjoyment to developing events on a much larger scale to strengthen our economic diversity.
Today, Vail is known as an industry leader in the way we harness events to strengthen our economy. A recent study by RRC Associates identified an economic impact to the community of over $63 million in 2013. The analysis evaluated the annual impact of 30 events ranging from the weekly Vail Farmers Market that generated over $13 million in economic benefit to the three-day Vail Living Well Summit at just over $77,000. While many of these events such as the GoPro Mountain Games and Snow Daze helped fill our lodges during non-peak periods, other events including the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships and the USA Pro Challenge Time Trial produced worldwide media coverage that will help generate future business.
While events have increasingly become an important component of the town’s economic development initiatives, we recognize there’s a threshold to our collective success. If left unchecked, then our infrastructure could become overextended and our quality of life could be diminished. In recognition of this circumstance, one of the town’s goals is to strike a balance in the quantity and quality of events in Vail. One of the measurements we use to track our progress is the biennial community survey. In 2012, and most recently in 2014, respondents generally indicated a high level of satisfaction with the number and quality of events held here and expressed a strong desire to attract and retain events that are consistent with Vail’s brand as a world class resort community.
The Town Council relies on recommendations from the Commission on Special Events to keep the event mix balanced and aligned. This year 37 events have received funding through the Commission on Special Events review process totaling nearly $1 million while an additional $1.2 million in iconic funding has been allocated by the Town Council to support the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Burton US Open and USA Pro Challenge.
During the funding cycle, the Commission on Special Events uses criteria that was developed in collaboration with the Vail Local Marketing District to evaluate new and returning events to determine the best fit for Vail when it comes to developing a sponsorship calendar that delivers the right events at the right time, supports the Vail brand and promotes an atmosphere of vitality, fun and celebration. Once an event is funded, the Commission for Special Events works closely with the Vail Local Marketing District and the event producers to ensure the town’s investment is held to a high level of accountability and that resources are in place to sustain events into the future that will bring Vail’s brand to life in exciting and unexpected ways. The debut of the new Vail Summer Bluegrass Series this summer is an example of the Commission on Special Events’ efforts to enhance our event portfolio.
As the Town Council begins to formulate a long-term strategic plan that will be used to enhance our future competitiveness, we’ll be examining the role of special events in greater detail. This will include a discussion on strategies to grow our destination market and maintain Vail’s leadership position as the premier international mountain resort community. In the end, our goal is to work with our economic development partners to endorse an event strategy that contributes to the greater economic vitality of the community while building on the strength of Vail’s brand. It’s a balance that has served this community exceptionally well since inception of the Commission on Special Events in 2001.
Andy Daly is the mayor of Vail.