After ski season, events take center stage in Vail Valley
EAGLE COUNTY – It’s easy to have events every weekend. The trick is to host events that draw people, and keep them coming back.The warm-weather event calendar in the Vail Valley has a few new events, plus some changes to familiar ones, all with the intent of maintaining the area’s edge in the highly competitive summer-business sweepstakes.Vail is rolling out perhaps the biggest new event – FEAST! Vail, a food and wine event set for Memorial Day weekend. Vail’s civic and business leaders have been looking for a Memorial Day event just about forever, but that search has always been stymied by the weekend’s unpredictable weather. James Deighan, of Highline Events, the company producing FEAST! Vail, said most of the events will be indoors. A big tasting event, set for the plaza at Solaris, will be mostly tent-covered. Deighan said if the weather’s nice, the side panels will come off the tents, creating a more open-air atmosphere. If the weather gets cold and squishy, the side panels get zipped into place and the heaters will come out.Beaver Creek has long had its Brews Blues & BBQ event the same weekend, but Beaver Creek Resort Company Executive Director Tim Baker said he welcomes the new event in Vail. The two events will complement each other, he said, adding that “a rising tide lifts all boats.””I’ll be at both,” Baker said. “We’re going to have such contrasting types of food. If it was just more barbecue, I don’t think it would have worked as well.”Planners have avoided possible conflicts on the Fourth of July, too. While Vail has expanded its Vail America Days celebration to cover a three-day weekend, Deighan said the events in Vail will wind down during Avon’s annual – and annually packed – Salute to the USA event in Nottingham Park. That way, people can come to the valley and enjoy what both towns have to offer.Events in Vail can receive funding from the town, both to help pay expenses for established events and help kick-start new ones. Vail Town Council member Margaret Rogers said the idea behind helping events is to keep drawing paying guests.”When the recession hit, the reason Vail did better than other resorts was events – it has a real economic impact,” she said.The trick now, Rogers said, is to help events that best help the town.”We have more (event) applications than weekends available,” Rogers said.Events are important for more than just the bottom line, Rogers said. “Events are one of the things that keeps Vail, Vail,” Rogers said, adding that families who come know there’s always something to do. That’s why it’s important to keep events fresh and interesting.In Beaver Creek, the Tough Mudder adventure race has quickly become wildly popular, drawing thousands to the resort’s slopes for two days of running, obstacles and camaraderie.This year’s Saturday event is nearly full, Baker said, and Sunday is filling up fast. But participants this year will find a new course. “It’s critical to keep things fresh,” Baker said. The marketing plan at Beaver Creek – and virtually every other resort – depends heavily on guest loyalty. It’s far more expensive to attract new guests than to get people to return. Those people want familiar events, but nothing so familiar that “been there, done that” takes hold.”The first thing we talk about at the end of every event is how to keep it fresh and new for the next year,” Baker said. That’s why Beaver Creek is taking a family focus this year, Baker said, adding new activities for families. The resort has also changed its summer music series from paid concerts to free shows. Baker said those shows will probably move to several locations around the resort, again, to keep things fresh and interesting.Fresh and interesting is crucial, even with events where the star of the show is well known.Avon’s signature event is Salute to the USA. Every year, fireworks is the centerpiece of the event. But Danita Chirichillo, the special events coordinator for the town, said the challenge is always to find ways to make the rest of the event appealing.”You’re always working, trying to make sure what you do is the right fit for the town, residents and guests,” she said. “It’s always a work in progress.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.