Can town of Vail handle a big new festival?
VAIL — Gussie Ross will have a ringside seat to a proposed new festival in Vail. That means she has some pointed questions about the event.
Ross was among a handful of Vail residents who attended a Thursday afternoon information session about the proposed KAABOO festival. Attendance was better at a morning session — both held at The Grand View Room atop the Lionshead Village parking structure. About 50 people were at that session.
Mostly the session was a chance for festival promoters and Vail Valley Foundation officials to explain the event.
That event, scheduled for Aug. 18 to 20 in 2017, would fill most of Gerald R. Ford Park with a combination of music, comedy, food and similar treats for those who pay to attend. Festival founder Bryan Gordon said the idea is to flip the idea of music festivals on its head.
Gordon, who said he’s a “life-long music lover,” talked about the genesis of the event.
“As I started to age, it became harder to appreciate the live music experience,” Gordon said. Talking about festivals with little shade, fewer places to sit and sub-par food, Gordon added that “You shouldn’t have to encounter unpleasantness or discomfort to enjoy live music.”
A better festival
That’s why Gordon and his partners at the Madison Company started working on a festival that would appeal to a range of people from people in their 50s — Gordon is 54 — as well as in their 20s and even people in their 70s.
The idea, he said is to create something for people with average annual household incomes of about $100,000, something that’s held at decent hours and something that gives people a break from simply hanging out at concerts.
Vail Valley Foundation CEO Mike Imhof said organizers expect an “ebb and flow” of people into and out of Ford Park during the three days of the festival.
“Consumers are coming in and out constantly,” Imhof said. “They’ll got to the concerts they want, then wander around town.”
That wandering could have a big economic impact on Vail and the rest of the valley. Gordon said the economic impact of the first KAABOO festival — held in Del Mar, California in September of 2015 — was felt in adjacent towns. Those towns experienced an influx of between $3 million and $4 million in new spending, Gordon said.
Adjacent towns will be key for housing and parking those who come to the event.
Nate Prenger, who’s working with Gordon’s company, said he expects KAABOO to park guests up and down the valley, and perhaps at Copper Mountain, too, then use shuttle buses to get people to and from the event.
Ross lives on Vail Valley Drive, so parking is one of her big questions. She asked more than once about the prospect of people parking on the street where she lives.
Scott Bluhm, who’s also working with Gordon on logistics, said a ticketed event allows organizers to have a good idea of how many people are coming, and where those people are staying.
‘A thoughtful plan’
“What if you say the only way to park is to park in neighborhoods?” Ross asked.
“We’re aren’t going to do that,” Gordon said. “We’ll lease parking and shuttle people.”
Imhof told Ross that the festival will have “thoughtful plan, even in year one.”
That planning has been going on for more than a year. The public will get a good look at those plans during sessions similar to the Thursday open house. The Vail Town Council will also take a good look at the plan before voting to approve a special use permit for the festival. That vote could come as soon as July 19.
Other questions included the timing of the festival. Imhof said that studying lodging occupancy shows the targeted weekend has the valley’s lowest occupancy between June 1 and Oct. 1.
Then there’s the fact the festival will be centered primarily on the softball and rugby fields at Ford Park. Prenger said the companies KAABOO is working with have used systems to protect turf at fields used by the New York Mets and Washington Nationals Major League Baseball teams, as well as the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, used by the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
The festival will also require closing facilities in and around Ford Park for some time in August. The closures could last from eight days to two full weeks.
After the meeting, Ross said she believes the festival will probably be well run, but she remains skeptical.
“I don’t know how different this is from other festivals we have,” she said, adding that she’s also concerned about closing facilities at Ford Park during the summer.
“There’s only so many things we can cram into summer,” she said. “A week is a long time to close those fields.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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