Block Party’s move to August creates a crowded weekend in Eagle
Organizers of other events that weekend, and business owners, express concerns to Town Council
The 2023 edition of the popular Block Party in Eagle was a hot topic at the Dec. 13 Eagle Town Council meeting. The event, which has been held in June in prior years, is set to take place on Aug. 11-13 next year.
That schedule change has led to pushback from organizers of other events in town already scheduled for that second weekend in August: Our Community Table, EagleARTS’ second Friday ARTwalk, and the Eagle Mushroom and Wild Food Festival.
Tara Novak, the chair of EagleARTS, told the council at Tuesday’s meeting that with limited resources like lodging, all four events would struggle to coexist within the same weekend during an already busy season for the valley.
“Last year, the Mushroom Festival attendees, a lot of them stayed in Glenwood and in Vail because August is such a busy tourist month,” Novak said.
Mary Ann Morrison, secretary-treasurer of the Eagle Mushroom and Wild Food Festival, said the festival’s 2023 dates are not flexible. She explained that the festival’s venue, Brush Creek Pavilion, had limited availability. Additionally, Morrison said the Eagle Mushroom and Wild Food Festival had to schedule around the more prominent Telluride Mushroom Festival, which also takes place in August.
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“The 15th annual Eagle Mushroom and Wild Food Festival has been scheduled for Aug. 11-13,” Morrison said. “If it continues with the Block Party at the same time, the Block Party will have sucked all of the oxygen out of the Mushroom Festival.”
On top of concerns mounting over resources being stretched between four major events in one weekend in Eagle, local businesses also expressed concerns to the Town Council over the impacts the Block Party has on businesses.
Everyday Outfitters on Broadway is one Eagle business the Block Party has routinely affected, owner Rachel Smiley said. She said the 2022 Block Party Eagle was her first experience with the event.
“That weekend in June that they chose, I was all geared up and staffed up and ready to go, not quite knowing what to expect,” Smiley said. “Then I show up and there is a green fence that completely blocks anybody being able to tell I’m a store and that I’m open.”
Smiley also said because of the Block Party stage setup, noise inside the shop was significant, and shop windows were shaking to a point that made conducting business difficult.
“I would likely choose to close if it is organized the exact same way,” Smiley said. “If the stage is right in front of my business, I just feel rude having people in my store trying to shop during that.”
Over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday that Block Party was held in 2022, Smiley said Everyday Outfitters saw a 60% reduction in sales.
However, Smiley said seeing a loss in sales in August would be far more detrimental to the business than how a weekend of reduced sales would look in June. She explained that in August, the store typically has a 150% increase in sales.
Ted Wenninger with Ramble Presents, the organizer of the annual Block Party, said Tuesday’s Town Council meeting was the first he was hearing of the event’s negative impact on local businesses.
“I’m sorry to hear some of the comments tonight that Block Party was unhelpful for business because part of the goal of putting on this and doing it in the streets of Old Eagle was very much to benefit and bring people to the downtown area,” Wenninger said.
Wenninger also mentioned that the Block Party date changes were not intentional, but rather forced by the limited availability to book meaningful talent.
In planning the 2023 Block Party, Wenninger said his goal is to not make the event a “headache” for anyone and said he is open to hearing what input people town-wide have in order to do so.
“I’m up to any one-on-one meetings with businesses and hopefully we can take it from there,” Wenninger said.
Adrienne Cavallario owns Roam gourmet eatery on Broadway and also shared how the Block Party’s organization in previous years had negative consequences for local businesses.
“It’s great to have music, it’s supporting the arts, it’s supporting bands. It’s a great thing,” Cavallario said. “That being said, Eagle is a different place now than it was. It’s bigger. Whether the event grew or didn’t grow, Eagle did. This town is bigger and more vibrant than it was before.”
Cavallario said that the effects of event organization without local growth in mind fell onto local businesses, including Roam. She said the same effects would be harder for the restaurant to survive in August.
“If this event were to happen in August, it would paralyze my business,” Cavallario said. “It’s horrible, I had 24 cancellations in reservations last year. It’s paralyzing.”
In order to work to support local businesses instead of hurting them, Cavallario suggested Block Party organizers work directly with businesses to find solutions everyone can benefit from.
“(Local businesses are) the bread and butter of Eagle,” Cavallario said. “These are my neighbors, they’re my friends, they’re my business colleagues and they’re what makes this town great. I just hope that we can grow with this and make some really positive changes to help our businesses and our residents.”
Novak said the Eagle Downtown Business Alliance would like to see their questions and concerns regarding the Block party addressed before the Town Council motions to approve funding or permits for the event.
“Again, we love Block Party and we love it being in Eagle, we don’t want that to change,” Novak said. “It’s a fun time and a great vibe, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of small business owners who are already struggling to keep their doors open due to staffing shortages, the impending recession and significant increases in costs of goods sold.”
Members of the Town Council at Tuesday’s meeting said they would push back the town’s decision on funding so businesses and event organizers could talk things out.