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Vail to boost funding for two early-season events

Powabunga, Vail Snow Days will bring different audiences to town

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats played Vail Snow Days in 2018. Businesses from retailers to restaurants to lodges benefit from the early-season boost big events can bring.
Chris Dillmann/Daily file photo

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday agreed to provide an extra $480,000 to a pair of early ski season events.

The weeks between Vail’s Opening Day and the Christmas holidays can be pretty quiet. Events add some bounce to those days. With that in mind, the council asked staff to find extra money to enhance those events, each of which is aimed at a somewhat different audience.

The council agreed to boost funding for December’s Powabunga festival, set for Dec. 9-12, from about $120,000 to $300,000. The extra funding will help enhance the talent to be booked.



Promoter Austin Gavlak of Full Send Productions noted that the 2019 version of Powabunga drew 6,000 paying customers. In addition to music — with heated VIP seating and other amenities, Gavlak said the festival will bring “Red Rocks-level” sound and lighting to Ford Park.

Gavlak said his company has a contract ready to present to Rufus Du Soul, a currently-popular Australian trio.



Town backing brings more support

Vail’s total spending on the event represents about 20% of the budget for Powabunga. But, Gavlak said, the added support from the town would boost Full Send’s ability to sign top-tier acts. Gavlak said Full Send wants to create something people are motivated to attend.

After more than a year of lying fallow, James Deighan has revived Highline Sports & Entertainment, a longtime partner with the town and Vail Resorts. After 2020 cancellations, Highline is promoting Vail’s Gourmet on Gore and Oktoberfest events in September.

Highline is also the promoter of Snow Days, a long-running weekend festival in the early ski season.

The preliminary request for Snow Days was for a festival on the same dates as Powabunga, but Deighan said the event could be scheduled for another early-season weekend.

Deighan came to the council with a request for $300,000. As with Powabunga, the town contribution will be only a part of the event’s total budget.

Deighan said he’s been talking with Vail Resorts officials, but the company hasn’t made a firm commitment of support.

Council members were wary of allocating that much money, especially since the town has an event-funding system.

‘A big ask’

“This is a big ask this time of year,” Town Manager Scott Robson said. While acknowledging both event producers bring “great track records” with their requests, Robson said the staff recommended sticking with existing funding requests.

But council member Jenn Bruno said she believed that the funding requests would have been granted in a normal year.

“There’s not only an expectation that Vail will have these kinds of events, but I believe there’s room for both,” Bruno said, adding that the business community, from retailers to restaurants to lodges, benefits from the early-season influx of people brought in by big events.

Both Deighan and Gavlak said the events could be scheduled and programmed to draw different audiences.

“This is not an opportunity that would normally be here for Vail,” Gavlak said.

Council member Kevin Foley said hosting two events in December could be an opportunity to get a bit of an edge on competing resorts.

“If we can create a buzz … it will stand us well in the season,” Foley said. “I’m inclined to say let’s take the chance.”

Mayor Dave Chapin complimented Deighan and Gavlak for being willing to work together on hosting complementary events. And, he added, he was hearing a strong message from council members that “Vail needs to become fun again.”

Coming attractions

Powabunga: Set for Dec. 9-12 at Ford Park.

Vail Snow Days: Sometime in late November or December.

Revely Vail: Nov. 19-Dec. 17.

Magic of Lights Vail: Nov. 19-Jan. 2.


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