Perfect Memorial Day event eludes Vail |

Perfect Memorial Day event eludes Vail

While Blues, Brews & BBQ is a Memorial Day tradition at Beaver Creek, Vail is still seeking a "signature" event for the holiday weekend.
Jack Affleck | Special to the Daily |

On the calendar

Here’s a probably incomplete look at Memorial Day events in the Vail Valley:

• May 22 — 24: Sonnen-Palooza, Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail.

• May 23 — 25: Blues, Brews & BBQ, Beaver Creek.

• May 25: Valor Run, Vail.

EAGLE COUNTY — The right Memorial Day event continues to elude Vail, leaving a fairly conspicuous hole in an otherwise-busy summer calendar.

After a two-year run in 2013 and 2014, the Feast Vail culinary festival is gone, with nothing to replace it, at least this year. That means this year’s holiday calendar in Vail is occupied primarily by a new event at the Sonnenalp Hotel and the growing Valor Run on Monday.

The gap in Vail’s calendar this year leaves much of the weekend’s activities to Beaver Creek, and the long-running Blues, Brews & BBQ events. This year’s events include a craft beer tasting, several musical performances, a culinary demonstration and, on Monday, a charity golf tournament. With the exception of the golf tournament, all those events are held in Beaver Creek Village.

While there’s no big event in Vail this year, Kelli McDonald, town economic development director, said Vail continues to look for the right way to tout the first holiday weekend of summer. Vail is a bit different than the rest of the country, though. Given the weather, particularly this year, it’s just as likely to have snow as sunshine during Memorial Day weekend.

“We’d love to have something,” McDonald said. “But we want to have something with the best opportunity for success.”

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Vail provides money for many of its events through its Commission on Special Events. That group’s job is to work with promoters and provide seed money to help establish events.

Feast Vail received town funds, but the commission decided against funding a third year of that event.


While Vail continues to search for an event to draw guests to town, Vail’s occupancy picture for the holiday weekend is far from bleak.

According to the most recent data from Destimetrics, a Denver-based consulting company, Memorial Day reservations made by April 30 are actually tracking slightly ahead of 2014’s number. Early reservations in 2014 put the town at 23 percent occupancy. This year’s early reservation number is 31 percent. Memorial Day in 2014 ended up with about 40 percent occupancy, which has McDonald optimistic about this year, weather permitting.

While 40 percent occupancy is a long way from the big numbers — and full-retail daily rates — posted in the height of ski season, that’s still a good number of rooms booked.

Even without an event, “there’s still a lot of great deals at hotels and restaurants in Vail right now,” McDonald said.

Given that relatively light occupancy, it wouldn’t take a huge number of people to have a big impact on Memorial Day visitation.

Vail resident Mark Gordon thinks what Vail needs over Memorial Day is some sort of destination event, something that people won’t find elsewhere.

Gordon, a Commission on Special Events member, said the town needs something that can be inside. Moving the Vail Film Festival might fill that bill, he said, as would something like a comedy or independent theater event. Gordon said events like that could take advantage of the season’s lower hotel rates and discounted restaurant prices to perhaps draw younger people to Vail. Attracting younger guests is a developing focus by town officials.

Gordon said he’s confident Vail will eventually find the right event, and it will be successful — “We’re Vail; that’s what we do,” he said.

Finding the right event could take some time, but town officials say they’re willing to listen.

“If anybody has any ideas, we’d love to hear them,” McDonald said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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