Come this 4th of July, Dale McCall and his wife Erika will be sitting on the deck of Pepi’s Restaurant on Bridge Street, watching the 35th Vail America Days Fourth of July parade.
For Dale, the parade is more than fireman tossing candy to the younger generation and the local dance team twirling around in front of the BMHS float. It’s a snapshot of how far Vail has come from that first parade in 1970, which Dale himself organized.
“Vail America Days was our first summer promotional program (for the Vail Resort Association),” Dale says. “We did a lot of promotions and one of the items to kick things off and get the community involved was the parade. I was jokingly accused of doing it because it was my own birthday.”
Indeed, this July 4th not only marks the 35th anniversary for Vail America Days, it is also Dale’s 80th birthday. But that first parade wasn’t a way to celebrate his own special day; it was an opportunity to get the community involved in an event and a way to promote the summer months in a widely ski-oriented town.
“Back in those days not much was going on in the summers, it was more of a construction site than anything,” Dale says. “We were really trying to promote the idea of Vail as a year-round recreational center and community.”
“I remember the first parade – we didn’t have the money to hire a band, so what we did, we took a bunch of my wife’s German march records and went on top of what is now the Golden Bear building, it used to be a deli. We encouraged the kids to dress up their bikes; we brought in some of the horse people from up and down the valley. We just kind of made up a locals’ parade, now it’s developed into quite an event.”
Dale was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo. WWII was in full swing when Dale graduated from high school, so he joined the Army, traveled to Europe with the Ninth Infantry Division and served in three campaigns. After returning from the war, Dale, a longtime musician, was just in time for the “big band” era. He went into the music business, playing the clarinet and the saxophone.
Dale is also an artist, specializing in both sculpture and painting and had his art exhibited in galleries in New York City as well as at the Plaza Gallery in Kansas City.
Dale was working later as vice president of an office furniture and design company when he met his second wife, Erika. She had recently moved to the U.S. from Germany and was interested in furnishing her new corporate office.
“For our first date he invited me to a rodeo and I had absolutely no idea what that was,” Erika remembers. “Even though my colleagues tried to explain it to me, I went there in a very nice white pleated dress. We had seats in the first row and you can imagine what this white dress looked like at the end of the event.”
The couple married in 1965 and moved to Colorado three years later with their son, Trevor. (Dale also has three children from a first marriage and a total of 10 grandchildren today.)
“I decided I wanted to be a part of the recreation industry and this is where it was happening,” Dale says.
Dale opened an ad and sales promotion agency in Denver and in the process met some people from Vail.
“While living in Denver we spent practically every weekend exploring the mountains and we were really looking for an opportunity to live in the mountains,” Erika says.
The Vail Resort Association was being organized at the time (now the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau) and Dale was hired as the first executive director.
“We put together the VRA; everything from information about Vail to special events, to reservations and putting packages together for travel agents and travel writers to get them acquainted with Vail.”
Along with Vail America Days, the association started Vail Fest, which was held in October, and Winter Fest, which took place each January.
Fellow Vail pioneer Vi Brown has known Dale since the first days of Vail.
“In the early days Dale helped bring events into Vail and he had great enthusiasm for the town,” Vi says. “Dale was Mr. Chamber of Commerce with a smile.”
After six years in the position, Dale stepped down and opened his own advertising agency, called McCall and Associates Inc., which he operated for 20 years.
Dale and his wife Erika spent nearly 35 years in Vail before they were forced to relocate because of Dale’s health, “Living at 8,000 feet wasn’t working out for me,” Dale says.
The couple has since moved to a ranch just north of Silt. Despite not living in Vail, Dale still holds the town and the community close to his heart.
“We were part of the early pioneers,” Dale says. “There have been tremendous changes, of course. We’re very proud of Vail’s stature today and it being recognized as a year-round premier resort.”
Caramie Schnell can be reached at email@example.com.
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