July Fourth festivities brought steady business to Vail area
Workers say they saw sustained crowds on Saturday and Sunday
VAIL — In the past, the town’s Vail America Days festivities have seen more than 1,000 cars lined along the Frontage Road after filling the town’s parking structures on the July 4 holiday.
During last year’s pandemic, however, those structures didn’t fill.
This year, Vail was back up to 463 cars on the road, and workers in town said business was steady.
Jon Walters, director of sales at The Sebastian hotel in Vail, said the hotel was nearly full, and many guests had booked early.
“That’s the big difference from last year,” Walters said. “Last year, it all came in fairly short notice, but this year, we’re getting bookings far further in advance.”
Walters said weekends are filling fast at the hotel for every remaining summer weekend on the calendar.
“A lot of times we’ll see international visitors looking more multiple-week stays, and that’s really hard for us to fulfill now because we are coming close to selling out on a lot of weekends,” Walters said.
Crowds were in the valley on Saturday, as well.
Cindy Krieg, with town of Minturn economic development and special events, said the Minturn Market was back to pre-COVID levels of activity.
“I had two vendors tell me they had their best market day ever,” she said.
Vail Rotary Club President Edgard Cabanillas said Saturday’s Minturn Market was one of the busiest he’s ever seen at the Rotary Club booth, which registers guests for the annual rubber duck race down Gore Creek during Vail’s next holiday event on Labor Day.
Cabanillas said the fact that you don’t have to be present to win on Labor Day helped him sell hundreds of duck entries over the course of the weekend.
“It was busy for the whole day,” he said.
Cabanillas was also set up in Lionshead on Sunday for the town’s Vail America Days festivities.
While there were more people this year, that event looked much like last year’s, with exhibits and booths set up in what Mayor Dave Chapin called a “stationary parade.”
Organizers said with the Farmers’ Market taking place in Vail Village, the stationary parade was a way to activate Lionshead, as well.
Special Event Coordinator Jeremy Gross said the stationary parade was still a pandemic-inspired setup; it’s not necessarily the town’s go-to solution for dealing with the problem of the Fourth of July parade needing the Vail Farmers’ Market space on a Sunday.
In planning, “We knew things were going to get better and loosen up, but were they still going to require 6 feet distancing, or limits to numbers? There were a lot of unknowns,” Gross said. “I think there’s a lot of nostalgia for the parade, and people want that back, and I think there’s a lot of people who liked how it worked with the stationary parade.”
Dennis Foley fits into both of those categories. As owner of Bart & Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead, he enjoyed the crowds wandering through the village, admiring the exhibits on display. As a bonus in Lionshead, guests can take to the streets with an alcoholic beverage, as Lionshead Village does not allow for vehicular travel.
But nevertheless, “I do miss the moving parade,” he said.
Alcohol drinking rules were modified during the pandemic to create outdoor common consumption zones in Vail, but the Colorado State Legislature did not implement exemptions allowing for common consumption zones to overlap with areas that allow for vehicular travel, as is the case in Vail Village.
“Lionshead Village does not encompass right-of-way for vehicular travel and therefore will remain a common consumption area until at least Oct. 31,” according to the town of Vail.
At Bart & Yeti’s, Foley has a bar set up along the edge of the property to catch passersby who might want a drink as they peruse the village. The open-container atmosphere added a festive element to the stationary parade in Sunday, but Gross said that was not the point.
“We’re always looking at opportunities to spread people out through both villages,” Gross said.
Foley said he thought the balance worked out perfectly this year.
“We were slammed,” he said. “The to-go stuff has been phenomenal.”
In Vail Village, at the women’s contemporary boutique Blitz, owner Stephanie McCarthy said the stationary parade may have had the effect of keeping guests around longer. She said she saw a steady stream of people in her shop all day.
“Usually, you’re in for the parade, getting set up with your chairs at 8:30 a.m., and then as soon as it’s over, you’re gone,” McCarthy said. “This year the crowds did seem a bit more sustained.”