How could Vail grow its events menu?
By the numbers
$1.086 million: Vail Commission on Special events total event funding for 2016.
40: Events receiving town funding in 2016.
$85,000: Largest single contribution, to the GoPro Mountain Games in June.
$1,000: Smallest contribution, to the Eagle River Youth Coalition, for a food event at Donovan Pavilion.
VAIL — Events now are a major part of Vail’s economic projects. To help those events thrive, the town, several years ago, established the Commission on Special Events. That group’s job is to support existing events and seek out new ones.
For 2016, only a handful of new events made the cut for funding. That list includes a brand-new, soccer-related event in July, the World Fly Fishing Championships in September and the return of CarniVail, a Mardi Gras-like February celebration to kick off the pre-Easter season of Lent. The commission also provided funding for a new program at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. That facility already receives town funding from another source.
Commission on Special Events member Mark Gordon is particularly excited about the soccer event, a 10-day workout and camp featuring players and coaches from Bundesliga, a German professional league that claims to have the best stadium attendance in the world.
“They’ll be working out here for 10 days,” Gordon said. “Fans will come here to watch. This could turn into something pretty great.”
Attracting International Visitors
The World Fly Fishing Championships is an extension of an already-successful event, the America Cup fly-fishing tournament that began in Vail several years ago. Like skiing, the world governing body for fly-fishing competitions rotates its world championships between sites. Although it’s unlikely to match the draw of Germany’s biggest soccer league, the fishing event will draw a number of international competitors and visitors.
But, Gordon said, the relative handful of brand-new events doesn’t tell the entire story of bringing more festivals, competitions and seminars to Vail.
“A new event isn’t necessarily in its first year,” Gordon said. “We’ve had a lot of new events over the past year or two.”
That list includes the relatively new summer bluegrass concerts in Lionshead and the Outlier mountain bike festival that had its inaugural run in Vail in September.
The bluegrass series is rapidly turning into a well-attended event, Gordon said. The first Outlier events were also well-attended.
“That’s going to turn into a great, iconic event,” Gordon said.
The commission has done a good job of packing Vail’s calendar through the summer, and well into September.
The commission has also put money toward existing events that are taking something of a new turn. The Vail Film Festival in 2016 will focus on Latin American filmmakers and the event is moving to the last weekend of the ski season.
Given Vail’s longtime popularity with Mexican and South American guests, Gordon said that could be a change with the potential for big impact.
With the commission’s mission to attract new events, the question now is when those events might be held.
At the Vail Town Council’s Dec. 1 meeting, commission chairman Barry Davis said the group continues to attract new ideas. But many, if not most, of those proposals don’t accomplish the commission’s goals.
“We have a lot of people come forward (with ideas),” Davis said. “We have a lot of ideas for Labor Day, but we’re looking for other weekends. We’d love for people to tell us about great events for the second weekend in September.”
But adding events, at least in the summer, is going to be tough. In fact, the September events calendar is also nearly full.
The current thinking, Gordon said, is to look at the town’s events calendar in its entirety and continue to add variety.
“We want to be just like the ski mountain — it may not be the very best at one thing, but has the best variety of terrain available,” Gordon said. While Park City has its film festival and Telluride has music through the summer, Gordon said Vail should be able to boast that “we can offer an incredible menu of great events.”
Whatever the solution, Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno, a former commission member, said the group may need to look at new approaches to attracting new events.
“We’ve been doing it the same way for so long,” Bruno said. “Maybe there’s another way to get event producers to look at Vail… It would be exciting to have new events brought to you.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.