Floating a message | VailDaily.com

Floating a message

Cassie Pence
Preston Utley/Vail DailyJared Staber applies the mast to the Vail Daily float, a tribute to the Boston Tea Party.

VAIL – What could be more American than a little free advertising?Over 60 or more entities will march, gallop or ride in the Vail America Days Parade today, starting at 10 a.m. The Denver Pipe Band, cheerleaders, stilt walkers and members of the 10th Mountain Division, among many others like local character Packy Walker, all will be there to cheer our community and country on. The parade is one of the biggest down-home events of the year for Vail, but for the local businesses and organizations who opt to build a float for the occasion, the parade serves as much more than a gathering of friends and family – it’s flag-waving exposure.Moe’s Southwestern Grill, a new burrito joint in Edwards, has entered automobiles wrapped in its logo into the parade, as well as a float honoring John Wesley Powell, explorer of the Colorado River, which fits perfectly with the parade’s theme, “Events in American History.””We’re brand new, and we wanted to let people know we’re here. And what better a way than in a parade watched by 40,000 people,” Co-owner of Moe’s Southwestern Grill Mark Campisi said. Campisi has been attending the parade for years because his parents live in the valley.

Laurie Assmussen, whose company, Eagle Valley Events, organizes Vail America Days, agrees that the parade is a good place to receive exposure. She estimates around 30,000 people attended last year’s parade.”It’s a large captive audience in town,” Assmussen said. “But the biggest thing about Vail America Days is it’s a community event. The town has worked really hard to keep it that way.”The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District works hard at raising awareness about water conversation. This year, the district is using the parade as an outlet to spread its message. Reminiscent of Santa Fe’s Path of the Painted Ponies and the Chicago Cows, the district has employed five local artist to decorate old fire hydrants. “We’re always working to put a positive image forward in the community,” Leslie Isom, administrative manager, said. “This was a wonderful way to partner with the artists in the community to do something fun and different.”

The themes of the hydrants are as varied as the artists’ creativity. The hydrants have been transformed into a Chinese firecracker, a rain forest crawling with iguanas, a gnome, a flower garden and a scenic landscape.”If you know anything about Asian art, it’s always decorative,” Pia Reynaldo, local artist and graphic designer, said. “Especially Chinese, even a firecracker, they’re going to put flowers on to it.”Reynaldo transformed her hydrant into a firecracker, complete with hand-painted tiger lilies and cherries, a water bucket hanging off the sides and a fuse. The hydrants will be saved and auctioned off for various charities throughout the year.Wendy Hollenbeck, owner of The Art Factory in Edwards, an art-centric activity center for children, has mutated her personal vehicle into a moving piece of art for the parade by permanently gluing her students art projects to the car. There are about 30 projects attached now, and there’s room for 200-300 more, she said. It’s a work in progress, and it may not be covered by parade time, but she plans on swallowing the car with art and driving it on various family road trips.

“We hope more kids will want to come to The Art Factory because they see it. We hope they’ll want to become a part of our community,” Hollenbeck said. All the glued on art projects show the child’s name, age and where they live. Hollenbeck said the kids were really excited to know people around town and even around the country will see their hard work.”It’s a little bit of a validation with their artwork,” Hollenbeck said.Even a national company is hopping on the free advertising band wagon at the Vail America Days Parade. Celestial Seasonings tea company out of Boulder has donated 5,000 tea bags to the Vail Daily’s Boston Tea Party float, and revolutionaries will be handing out the samples along the parade route.

“They know the Vail market,” said Mark Bricklin, head of marketing for the Vail Daily. “They saw it as a great opportunity to sample their tea. Flat out. They didn’t even hesitate.”Floats will be judged on seven categories: most original, marching, equestrian, musical, President Ford award, merchant and motorized. So make sure you scream loudly for your favorite one. And for those of you who are veterans to the parade, yes, crazy Packy Walker will be sending his message, whatever it might be, via his one-man float. He’s notorious for walking through the parade in nothing but a pink slip. “I have been sworn to secrecy,” said JoAnne Moore of Walker’s entry. Moore, who is now being paid for her efforts, has volunteered with the parade for 21 years. “But it’s always controversial, what’s in the news and he’s in your face about it. Expect the unexpected.”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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