Memorial Day weekend in Eagle County all about the food

Lauren Glendenning

File photo

EAGLE COUNTY — With sunny, warm weather in the forecast, FEAST! Vail and Blues, Brews & BBQ in Beaver Creek already have a head start on a successful Memorial Day weekend, at least from a weather standpoint.

This weekend marks the 10th annual Blues, Brews & BBQ event, which has become a local Memorial Day weekend tradition in the valley. And new to the scene this year is another culinary-focused event that organizers hope will draw in visitors from the Front Range who will book hotel rooms and stay for the weekend.

FEAST! Vail emerged as the preferred event earlier this year as the town of Vail’s Commission on Special Events tried to find the right event for the typically slow Memorial Day holiday weekend in Vail. The board had discussed a comedy festival, but a market study showed more traction for a culinary event.

“There was an overwhelming response to create a participatory culinary event,” board member Jenn Bruno said of the research.

Participatory is the key word when talking about FEAST! Vail — organizers wanted more than a street-food fare event where attendees can graze.

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The goal is for a more interactive, high-quality experience, said marketing consultant Adam Sutner.

“FEAST! Vail is definitely a boutique offering,” Sutner said. “It’s trying to underscore and highlight what we think is the strength of the culinary scene in Vail.”

That’s why the schedule features outdoor activities with chefs such as a hike, casting clinic and half-marathon/five-mile run and walk, as well as seminars covering topics such as “Farm to Glass” cocktails, steak and bourbon pairings, and pizza and craft beer, among others.

The new event is welcomed to the valley by organizers of Blues, Brews & BBQ, too. Tim Baker, Beaver Creek Resort Company executive director, said he’s excited that Vail has found something to fill in its holiday weekend calendar.

“I’m a firm believer in ‘rising tide rises all ships,’” Baker said. “Feast will only help us, and the new things we’re doing will create great success for us. There are plenty of folks in the valley for both events to be extremely successful.”

Blues, Brews & BBQ is an event that Beaver Creek continuously tries to grow, Baker said. Last year, the event expanded the microbrew tasting up on the Beaver Creek Resort lawn and is continuing to grow that this year. Baker also envisioned a lineup of grills with smoke billowing out from them, which is how the public BBQ competition was born.

“A combination of that and having the kickoff concert at the Vilar Center (Friday night) are touches we’re adding to keep it fresh and new,” Baker said.

Both FEAST! Vail and Blues, Brews & BBQ have been targeting some marketing efforts to the Front Range. Sutner said FEAST! Vail has been running a TV advertisement on the Food Network as well as print ads around Denver. The social media push through Vail’s Facebook page has also been heavy. Baker said Blues, Brews & BBQ has put a little more focus on the Front Range this year than in years past in an effort to grow the overall awareness about the valley as a summer destination.

“(Memorial Day weekend) really kicks off the summer season for the overall resort community,” Baker said. “When we have great weather, it’s tough to go wrong.”

The weekend forecast shows sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s — welcomed news considering the reason Memorial Day weekend has always been such a tough weekend to fill in on the events calendar is because of unreliable weather. Sutner said the forecast means the FEAST! Vail event producer, Highline Sports and Entertainment, is scaling back its need for tents in order to leverage the good weather.

Sutner said because FEAST! Vail is a first-year event following a long period of time in which there hasn’t been a headline event in Vail, organizers have modest expectations. The town’s commitment to the event, however, is long-term.

The town of Vail’s Commission on Special Events and Sutner all agree with Baker that the two holiday weekend food events will be able to not only coexist, but also compliment one another.

“The goal is not to compete with each other,” Sutner said. “Nobody wins in that scenario.”

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at or 970-748-2983.

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