Avon prepares for no outdoor gathering restrictions by July 1
Town Council is cautiously optimistic that outdoor events can happen with no restrictions, including annual Salute to the USA
Only one year after the pandemic swept through the Eagle County, the town of Avon is preparing for a return to normalcy during the summer.
“We are cautiously optimistic about returning to a local economy with no gathering restrictions by July 1 and we are preparing in earnest to poise Avon to be ready,” said Danita Dempsey, the culture, arts and special events manager for the own of Avon at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
This optimism extends to the return of the town’s signature event, Salute to the USA, on July 3. “We hope to bring it back in all of its glory,” Dempsey said.
Earlier reports from the council indicated the county’s public health orders would allow for Avon to operate events at 50% capacity in April; 60% in May; and 75%-80% from July onward. The town also considered applying for a variance to allow up to 800 persons in the main field in front of stage at Nottingham Park.
Following discussions with Town Manager Eric Heil, Dempsey and Eagle County Public Health on March 12, new guidance prevails over the decision.
“They are cautiously optimistic and support Avon’s desire to plan, and ability to host events beginning in early June with or without PHO restrictions,” Dempsey wrote in a report prior to the meeting in regard to Eagler County Public Health. “Additionally, all parties agree that there is not an immediate need to apply for a venue variance request as conditions related to restrictions at outdoor events are changing rapidly.”
The next follow-up between town officials and the county will be in mid-May.
While the summer events schedule will still be subject to pandemic public health orders, the nature of events require months of preparation and planning to execute. Overall, council members agreed that they were ready to begin planning for no-pandemic restrictions, even if they lose some deposits down the road, should restrictions remain.
“If we don’t start now, we can’t play catch-up on something like this. It’s safer to commit now and pull back later, even if we lost a couple dollars,” said council member Russell “RJ” Andrade.
“This presents Avon with a unique opportunity to lead in this arena if the pandemic allows us to,” Dempsey said. This follows the precedent set by the town in 2020, when Avon was the first town in Eagle County to host outdoor concerts.
In order to produce and execute the town’s proposed 2021 events calendar, an additional $336,947 would be required, bringing the net budget to $663,857 — which is $62,902 more than the approved 2020 special events budget. The budget does not include personnel costs, general operations and capital outlay for these events.
The council included budget discussions for the town’s Salute to the USA event. The proposed budget was $197,426 — $3,639 higher than the approved 2020 budget. The increase was attributed to higher costs for recycling and composting and stage production.
If all goes to plan, the event will maintain its traditional 22-23-minute fireworks program (also subject to drought warnings and wildfire danger), concessions, a family-zone, the VIP experience and more.
The revised budget request would support the cost of additional events, enhance the talent at three to four of the summer’s AvonLIVE! events and to support music activation at local Avon businesses. These additional events include AvonLIVE! Special Edition, Salute to the USA, Pose & Paddle Battle, Sunset SUP Race, Summer’s End and the Community Picnic.
According to Heil, Avon can afford the additional cost of the return to a pre-pandemic special events strategy for two reasons. One, the town finished 2020 strongly with “unexpected surplus revenues.” And two, Avon will receive $700,000 by mid-May as part of the town’s share of funds from the American Recovery Act. These funds are to go toward supporting hard-hit industries, which he said includes the special events industry.
In Oct. 2020, the council began preparing both a “Pandemic Budget” and a “No Pandemic Budget.” In addition to a financial budget, this includes a proposed calendar of events for both scenarios.
This week, the No-Pandemic calendar was adjusted to remove the Egg Hunt (April 3), Best of the West (June 18-19), the Triple Bypass (July 10-11) and the Colorado Classic (Aug. 27). These were either removed because they were canceled by third parties, as is the case with Colorado Classic, or the events are too early in the season. The Triple Bypass will still be happening, but the end celebration will instead be hosted in Vail.
Avon also added Pride in the Park (June 12), Colorado Disc Dogs (July 10), AvonLIVE! Special Edition (July 17 and two more dates to be decided), the Avon Festival of the Arts (Aug. 7-8) and Summer’s End (Sept. 5-6) to this No-Pandemic calendar.
Other prospective events include Town Clean Up (June 5); SunsetLIVE! (June 6); Vail Lacrosse Tournament (June 21-23); Possibilities in Avon: Weekly Art Expo (June 23); AvonLIVE! (June 23); Pop Up Music (June 26); Lakeside Cinema (July 9); XTERRA Mountain Championship (July 16-18); Avon Arts Celebration (July 23-25); Dancing in the Park (Aug. 5); Circus Bella (August 9-16); Vail Valley Brew Fest (August 21); Avon Art Festival (Sept. 4-6); Vail Valley Soccer Tournament (Oct. 2-3); and Man of the Cliff (Oct. 9-10).
Overall, the council unanimously supported Avon preparing for a return to a robust, pre-pandemic calendar of events.
“I think back a year ago, I was at the point of, ’stop all special events funding, we need to hold back, this pandemic is going to get out of control,’” said Council member Scott Prince. “I’ve now come a complete 180 with the progress that we’ve made. I’m all in because I think it’s going to be a record year.”
This pent-up demand for events and socializing is something the council and CASE will be carefully considering as it prepares for the summer events. Heil noted that he expects bigger crowds for every event this year as restrictions begin to lift.
“I think it will do a lot of good for our town to crack it wide open because we made it through together,” said Councilmember Tamra Underwood. “We cannot be cautious with this summer.”