Bravo! electrifies Vail summers |

Bravo! electrifies Vail summers

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Bravo! people KA 06-30-10

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – With internationally acclaimed performers like Yo-Yo Ma kicking off the season, it’s no wonder the town of Vail gives more money to the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival than any other town event.

The Bravo! music festival, a month-long festival in its 23rd year, has become a destination in and of itself within the town of Vail. People travel from all over to watch the likes of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic perform at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater during one of the most beautiful times of the year.

John Giovando, the festival’s founder, couldn’t be more proud of how the festival has evolved, and he said he’s not finished yet.

“We have a new artistic director in 2011 and we’ll continue to build it and seize on all the strengths we have now, and take it to another place, another level,” Giovando said.

The festival has done more than put Vail on the map in the summertime, a season that lags far behind winter in terms of guests and sales tax revenue. The festival has brought along a cultural component that has set high standards in Vail, said Beth Slifer, chair of the Vail Local Marketing District’s Advisory Committee.

“Bravo! has an amazing 23-year track record of contributing to the cultural vitality of Vail and its attraction of outside visitors,” Slifer said.

The town of Vail supports many events each year, mostly through its Commission on Special Events budget. The town donates to Bravo! directly, though, because it would eat up too large of a portion of the Special Events budget, said Sybill Navas, the commission’s administrator.

“The investment the town makes in sponsoring events, they do it because they think it drives economic vitality,” Navas said. “There’s a positive financial return on the public investment – that’s how you can validate spending public money to support these events.”

July, with help from Bravo, is becoming one of the busiest months of the year in the town of Vail, Navas said.

“This was not the case in the early 1980s,” she said.

Meredith Richards, Bravo’s marketing and public relations manager, said the festival has started spending money on marketing to the Front Range this year. She’s also promoting the event heavily through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The goal is to get folks to come to Vail and realize that summers have a lot to offer.

Richards said the festival has tried to reach out to many second-home owners in Vail who might not visit their homes as much as they do during the winters.

“We hope they would come to Vail in the summers, also,” Richards said.

It’s the same message Slifer and the Vail Local Marketing District are trying to get across – that Vail is just as beautiful and just as exciting in the summers.

Slifer said the Vail International Dance Festival and the Vail Jazz Festival also help the town’s cultural reputation in the summers.

“From the marketing board’s perspective, although we can never have enough, we have a very healthy cultural component to attract out-of-town visitors for the summer,” Slifer said.

The word-of-mouth and marketing efforts spread like wildfire, too. Navas couldn’t believe the amount of people she saw on the streets in Vail Village right after the Yo-Yo Ma concert last Friday.

“Here are all these people we brought into town, and they come in and there’s vibrancy on the streets,” Navas said.

The town is trying to feed off the signature Bravo event, too. Navas attributes a lot of the foot traffic through last weekend’s Vail Arts Festival and the BBQ Bonanza to traffic that was in town because of Bravo.

“Bravo has tendrils that go beyond people coming specifically for that event,” she said.

Giovando remembers putting together a proposal in the late 1980s to present to the mayor. The festival started out small, but quickly grew.

“It just all clicked,” Giovando said. “It came together, just as musicians do making music.”

As the Vail Valley grew, Giovando said it became the perfect place to show off the festival and the town for what it is – “a world-class resort.”

It became natural to increase the artistic levels of the orchestras, he said. And combined with the state-of-the-art Ford Amphitheater, Bravo suddenly had everything it needed to explode onto the music scene.

“We get to live the dream and see it become a reality,” Giovando said. “We make such an effort to make the experience of a summer trip here, be it from Denver or Avon, to bring people in to the Vail community and to the Ford Amphitheater and try to do our very best to make it an overall experience.”

Each year nonprofits like the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival have to submit their estimated return on investment for the town of Vail, in addition to other information in order to receive grant money from the town.

“To be able to go to them and prove to them that this is an event that draws people in from all over, it’s great we’re able to ask for that grant and be worthy of it,” Giovando said. “And we’re very thankful for it.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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