New Eagle County COVID-19 restrictions deliver a blow to events, producers
Some concerts, other events still on the calendar, but with greatly-reduced attendance
It’s going to take a long while before Amanda and Andy Jessen are ready to schedule an event.
The Jessens, owners of Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, were set to host a two-night music event this weekend at the Eagle County Fairgrounds. Eagle County officials Wednesday pulled the plug on those concerts, just hours before many of the musicians were to board airliners to come to the Vail Valley.
After a partial resurgence, events in the valley are again being drastically limited in size with social distancing. The county’s latest public health order, which is still being drafted, is expected to limit outdoor public gathering sizes to 175 people, limit indoor public gatherings to no more than 100 people and limit private gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Amanda Jessen said the news about the concert cancellation came as a shock.
The Eagle County Commissioners Wednesday held a work session earlier in the day, and agreed to amend the county’s public health order.
“We never received any official communication until after the Vail Daily published (the news),” Amanda Jessen said. “It’s really frustrating for us.”
Jessen said her company lost “tens of thousands” of dollars with the cancellation.
“We’re so gun-shy right now,” she said. “We’re not in a place to take a risk anytime soon.”
In addition to the Bonfire events, the town of Avon on Wednesday canceled future summer events at Nottingham Park, both concerts and movies.
In Vail, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival went from a live audience to a streaming performance set Thursday for the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The classical music festival will hold other performances this summer, complying with social distancing and crowd-size rules.
The Vail Valley Foundation is also set to continue with its summer events, albeit with much smaller crowds.
The foundation had set up a way to put two sets of 175 people into the amphitheater, with two entry/exit points, separate concessions and bathrooms for each cohort and plenty of staff to enforce social distancing.
Amphitheater manager Tom Boyd said the new public health order will be obeyed, and events will continue.
“We’re doing this to support the quality of life in the valley,” Boyd said. “So many people are hurting mentally, and in need of relief. That’s going to be more and more important.”
But, he added, planning those events has required some rethinking.
James Deighan has had to rethink his entire business.
Deighan, the owner of Highline Sports and Entertainment, said his business essentially evaporated in mid-March, when COVID-19 shutdowns began in earnest, and when a cascade of event cancellations started coming.
Locally, those events include Spring Back to Vail, Snow Days, Gourmet on Gore and the Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships. Highline also puts together Vail America Days events.
Those Fourth of July events were scaled back and reimagined for this year.
“People were here and we gave them something safe to do,” Deighan said.
All those events are gone for the moment. In addition, Highline has also been involved with events around the nation and the world.
Deighan said he’s laid off most of Highline’s staff. While the event business is essentially in limbo, Deighan said he’s working with Mako Labs running COVID-19 testing sites.
“We’re setting up logistics for people to come through, with walk-through or drive-through stations,” Deighan said, adding that he’s talking with local officials about bringing Mako, and its promise of faster test results, to the Vail Valley.
The testing work is work, and it’s keeping what’s left of Highline’s staff employed.
“But we spent 25 years with out partners building up a spectacular company,” Deighan said. “It’s terribly disheartening.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org