Lionshead fun hitting high gear
Another sleepy summer in Lionshead? Not by a long shot. On Wednesday, I sat in on the Lionshead Merchants Association meeting at the Vail Chophouse and was privileged to be a part of a very exciting gathering. More than two dozen merchants, hoteliers, restaurateurs, representatives from the town of Vail and others with skin in the game were given the new activities calendar and visitor brochure announcing a schedule of events that will keep the place rockin throughout the summer and into early fall. The Lionshead summer of fun really kicked off with Vail America Days over the Fourth of July weekend, but that was just the overture. Lionsheads Family Friday Afternoon Club debuted this year and every Friday from now through Aug. 8. From 5 to 8 p.m., at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, families can enjoy live music, kids activities, food and drink specials and more.The Vail Jazz Foundation presents its Jazz at Vail Square on Thursdays from July 31 through Aug. 28, in the open-air plaza at the Arrabelle. The lineup for the foundations 14th year includes greats like Curtis Stigers, Trombone Shorty and Avenue Orleans, the Jeff Hamilton Trio, Chuchito Valdes Quartet and the Clayton Brothers Quintet with the VJF Allstars. Led by Grammy winner John Clayton, the Clayton Brothers Quintet includes Johns saxophonist brother Jeff Clayton, pianist and jazz educator Bill Cunliffe, Terrell Stafford one of the most sought-after trumpet players today and Lewis Nash, the most oft-recorded jazz drummer ever. The VJF All Stars are students of the Vail Jazz Workshop who have been selected from hundreds of high school-aged musicians for a 10-day residency. From the new jazz standards being created by Curtis Stigers to the blend of hip-hop funk and pop presented by Trombone Shorty, this is going to be an important and spectacular series of concerts.On the heels of the Jazz at Vail Square series comes the Rocky Mountain Antiques Festival, Friday, Aug. 1 through Sunday, Aug. 3. The festival will feature a panoply of upscale antiques furniture, silver, jewelry and artwork. There will be live entertainment, food booths and childrens activities.The following weekend, Aug. 8 through Aug. 10, the merchants association presents the Vail Arts Festival, a three-day celebration of the arts, including artists from all over the U.S. Youll see watercolor and acrylic paintings, woodworking, glass, sculpture, furniture, mosaics, ceramics, metalwork, photography and jewelry. Its a great opportunity to view the work, learn how its done and meet the artists.From Friday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 7, its Oktoberfest in Lionshead an entire weekend of lederhosen, dirndls, brats and beer steins, punctuated by oom-pah band parties, yodeling, alphorn performances and eating contests. Wrap this in the spectacular scenery of a Vail fall and youve got memories to keep hearts warm all winter.Two premier events wrap the season. On Friday, Sept. 19 and Saturday, Sept. 20, Lionshead will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Colorado Grand, a unique road rally covering more than 1,000 miles of Colorados scenic highways and byways, culminating in Vail and featuring a post-race celebration in Lionshead. This is one of the largest gatherings of vintage autos in the U.S. this year. You wont want to miss it.Wrapping up the summer on Saturday, Sept. 27 from noon to 5 p.m. is the Lionshead Chili Cook-off. Beer, chili and great weather: Thats a party!Congratulations to association founder Brian Nolan and the other fine leaders and members of the Lionshead Merchants Association for planning, attracting, assembling and presenting this great series of summer events. With all this activity, the renaissance of the Lionshead base area and the new shops, restaurants and lodges, its definitely not your fathers Lionshead. Get out and see it for yourself.Michael Kurz is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.