From music to dance to education, Vail Valley Foundation always ‘on the forefront of what’s next’ |

From music to dance to education, Vail Valley Foundation always ‘on the forefront of what’s next’

The Vail Dance Festival, put on by the Vail Valley Foundation, celebrated its 30th season this summer. In addition to world-class performances, the Dance Festival also offers community events for kids.
Chris Dillmann |

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series summarizing the Vail Valley Foundation’s summer activities. Find the first part at

The Vail Valley Foundation helps make Vail go round, year-round, complemented by community contributions.

“If you think of every single thing (the Vail Valley Foundation) does, which I think we do a lot of great events, projects, programs — you name it — we can’t do any of it without our generous donors or the volunteers,” said Mike Imhof, Vail Valley Foundation president and CEO. “Impossible — it does not happen.”

Imhof also credits other organizations for helping make Vail a lively place during the summer, helping fill other niches in the community. The Bravo! Vail Music Festival’s classical music series and Vail Jazz offer programs the foundation does not.

“We feel very blessed to be able to serve this wonderful community,” Imhof said.


For its 30th birthday, the Vail Dance Festival got the best present it could ask for in Damian Woetzel committing to maintain his role as the artistic director, despite taking over as CEO at The Juilliard School in New York City.

“He’s definitely at the pinnacle of the arts world, which is an unbelievable asset for us, as you can imagine,” Imhof said.

This year’s dance festival received high praise from Woetzel’s new hometown newspaper, The New York Times.

“When in Vail, though, what you see is how these returning artists extend themselves here — tackling new idioms, developing new partnerships, working on choreographic premiers — as nowhere else,” wrote Alastair Macaulay, a critic for the Times, in August. “You haven’t seen their full range if you’ve missed them here.”

This summer, the Vail Dance Festival’s economic impact was about $3.8 million, according to the foundation.

The dance festival is known for being different, such as pairing tap dancers with hip-hop dancers and live music. Behind Woetzel for the past 11 years, the dance festival has taken off. However, for a festival that prides itself on being different, that means every year must be different.

“You have to be careful that you don’t become complacent, and every year you have to reinvent yourself,” Imhof said.

In addition to Woetzel, other stakeholders and people come together to make the Dance Festival what it is today.

“The dance festival, for a project that’s 30 years old, it’s not just doing OK, but it’s growing in leaps and bounds,” Imhof said.


Professional cyclists wrapped up the Tour de France this summer and then hit the Tour of Utah before coming to the Colorado Classic, which featured two stages in Vail.

While the Foundation was concerned this summer about parking and road closures for the race, next year will be easier to get around for locals and those in town.

Both Vail stages were live streamed online, providing immense exposure to cycling fans around the world, especially in Europe, where the races were on during prime time.

“I think having women and men pro cycling return to the valley was exciting,” Imhof said.

Paired with Whistle Pig Vail concerts and the Gravel Fondo, the Colorado Classic was a well-rounded event that is set to return next year.

The Foundation doesn’t have economic impact number yet from the Colorado Classic.


Every town has some form of a free concert series, and the Vail Valley Foundation’s Hot Summer Nights at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and ShowDown Town in Eagle serve as gathering places for the community to enjoy quality music, for free.

Organizers with the Foundation believe it was the best lineup in its 30-plus year history. Hot Summer Nights on Tuesdays featured The Devon Allman Project and Queen Nation at the Ford Amphitheater, which changed up its beer offerings this summer, serving Pacifico, Corona, Modelo and Ballast Point. ShowDown Town favorites included local band Schwing Daddy and JoJo Hermann from Widespread Panic.

“Being able to have a free music series, I think, is very important,” Imhof said. “They become these iconic social networking events. It’s where people can get together and see folks they haven’t seen in a while and enjoy great entertainment.”

While the music is free, the concert series help local businesses by patrons going out to eat and drink and shop.


The 535-seat Vilar Performing Arts Center under the ice rink in Beaver Creek village is a unique venue to see any show — whether it’s music, comedy or family-friendly programs.

The diverse programming at the Vilar Center offers something for everyone. This summer, Amos Lee returned to a sold-out crowd. He performed at the Vilar Center in 2011 when he was still just becoming known.

Other summer artists included Tower of Power, Josh Turner and Don McLean.

“The Vilar Center is an unbelievable asset, which is also part of the exciting summer offerings,” Imhof said.

The Vilar Performing Arts Center, as an arm of the Vail Valley Foundation, will also benefit from the Foundation’s partnership with entertainment promoter AEG for Whistle Pig Vail.

“We had a fantastic summer this year at the VPAC with a diverse range of concerts, most of which were first-timers here in the valley,” said Duncan Horner, executive producer at the Vilar Center. “Ticket sales exceeded expectations with mostly full houses, which only add to the energy and excitement.”


While arts and athletics are two of the three pillars for the Vail Valley Foundation, education is the third area of community engagement. YouthPower365 gives children access to educational programs that help create success for every child, every day.

This year, its PwrHrs program became a fully-licensed program with the state of Colorado and, for the first time, included full-day, five-days-a-week programs throughout the valley.

YouthPower365’s 10th annual Star Dancing Gala was a huge success, and more than 700 kids participated in the 10th anniversary of COPA soccer, which on summer Sundays creates a gathering place for community families.

The Magic Bus is a licensed mobile preschool experience that readies 3- to 5-year-olds who do not attend a traditional preschool for success in kindergarten. This summer, 43 kids graduated from the Magic Bus program.

And with local schools opening later due to construction this year, YouthPower365 helped served children the extra days they were out of school.

While Imhof is running a well-oiled machine at the foundation, he continues to help lead the organization into the future.

“This organization has always been on the forefront of what’s next,” said Ann Smead, chairman of the board of the Vail Valley Foundation. “We have a history of doing that since 1981. This summer is a testament to all that hard work and partnerships that have gone into realizing that vision, and I think we, as a community, still have a lot to look forward to on that front.”

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