Three-ring circus under the big sky |

Three-ring circus under the big sky

Wren Wertin

Forget pushing the clocks forward – it’s time to Spring Back to Vail. For two consecutive weekends, Vail will positively ooze with a carnival-esque ambience. Over-the-top goofiness will be the least of it as costumed party-goers compete in physically demanding – if not serious – sports events. And as no Vail festival is complete without music, there’ll be plenty of it. Big names, big smiles – a very big deal.

James Deighan of Highline Sports and Entertainment, the event producers, promises a free-for-all of frolicsome fun.

“This is Vail’s baby,” he said. “It’s a joint venture by us, Vail Resorts and the Town of Vail. We’re giving birth to the biggest event of the year.”

How can he claim that title for Spring Back to Vail?

“It will bring in more people,” said Deighan. “You let me know any other event that’s expecting 10,000 to 20,000 people on any given day. We are.”

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Those oodles of people will get to compete in a relay race, a pond skimming event and hear the musical stylings of Blues Traveler, Clarence Clemons, Hazel Miller and a whole slew of reggae bands.

Five years ago, Deighan and his partner, Jeff Brausch, sat down with Bill Jensen, Vail Resorts’ chief operating officer, to conceptualize Spring Back to Vail, which was then Revolution Spring.

“He wanted to blow out April, get people back to Vail for spring,” said Deighan about Jensen. “Take a quiet time here in Vail and turn up the volume on it. Bill said he wanted crazy things going on, which included music. He said, ‘I want people talking about this nationwide, I don’t care who it is, but I want somebody big, somebody like Bruce Springsteen.'”

And now, fittingly, Springsteen’s right-hand man and stage buddy in the E Street Band, Clarence Clemons, is headlining the second week’s events.

Some people call them sports

Vail is a veritable playground for anyone interested in risking life, limb or dignity.

This Saturday marks the inaugural Look Ma’s Rockin’ Relay at the base of Look Ma on Vail Mountain. Teams have four members, each of which competes in a particular leg. There will be four heats of eight teams.

“It’s wild, wacky, zaniness,” said Deighan. “The first competitor in the relay will ascend Look Ma, then descend, but not on skis. They have to be in boots, or whatever footwear they choose.”

The second person will navigate a giant slalom course on an airboard, an inflatable sled with handles on each side.

“You lay on it on your stomach and navigate your way down the course,” said Deighan.

Is there a danger of smacking your face on the gates?

“It’s very sturdy and sound, it responds dramatically to slight weight distribution, much like skiing and snowboarding,” he explained.

The third competitor will cruise through another giant slalom course on a snowbike, while the fourth will make their way through an obstacle course blindfolded with verbal assistence from their teammates. The better the costumes of the participants, the better the chances for winning. In fact, those who don’t have great costumes run the risk of added seconds to their times.

Why are costumes encouraged?

“I think it adds to me mayhem, to the circus act we’re trying to create,” said Deighan. “A three-ring circus is what we’re trying to go for, with the components being the Look Ma Rockin’ Relay, the Toyota World Alpine Pond Skimming and our slew of concerts.”

Foks might remember the pond skimming from last year, which has become the signature event for the festival.

“We’ve seen it at other resorts,” said Deighan. “We don’t just want to just do pond skimming – we want to be the biggest and the best, so with our partners at Toyota, we came up with this. The Eastern Europe contingency has been really strong, especially Romania. The Latvian pond skimming group came up, and we expect good things from them.”

Three-ring circus indeed.

And tra la la

Music, music and more music.

Little Hercules, on their way up the musical ladder, will open the musical festivities on both Fridays at noon at Mid Vail. Hazel Miller, soul mama and Vail standard, will then get the party rocking on Friday evening. She never takes no for an answer, and expects the crowd to move and groove to her rhythmic whims.

Saturday, after the relay race, Blues Traveler plays a free concert at Check Point Charlie. The Colorado favorites have a long-standing tradition of selling out Red Rocks for the Fourth of July holiday – that’s 10,000 seats. So for them to play a free concert in the street of Vail Village is something to talk about.

“Blues Traveler loves Vail,” said Diane Moudy of Resort Entertainment. “Small venues, great music, loving people – the people in our community definitely love good music.”

Moudy didn’t just secure an offer with Blues Traveler – she also got Clemons. At the time, Deighan and his cohorts thought it had to be one or the other. They were devastated at having to choose.

“Vail Resorts is relaly the hero of bringing them both in,” said Deighan. “They stepped up on the funding.”

Which begs the question, “Why?” Surely they can’t sell enough lift tickets to cover the shows.

“Their advantage is putting Vail on the map in the spring, that’s their goal,” explained Deighan. “To people, especially in Colorado Blues Traveler carries tremendous weight. And as for Clarence Clemens, he commands tremendous respect. He’s just off an 18-month tour, which is the second highest-grossing tour in history. I’ve seen him with Bruce Springsteen, and let me tell you, his stage presence is amazing. He just wails on the sax, and Springsteen really lenas on him for most of the show.”

At 6’7″, he can handle the load. And with a bit of luck, Vail will be able to handle the major influx of tourists.

Schedule of events

Week one

Thursday, April 8

7 p.m. Pub crawl, Lionshead and Vail Village

Friday, April 9

noon-2 p.m. Little Hercules concert, Mid Vail

5 p.m.-7 p.m. Hazel Miller concert, Gondola Lawn

Saturday, April 10

11a.m.-3 p.m. Look Ma’s Rockin’ Relay, Look Ma, Vail Mountain

3:30-8 p.m. Blues Traveler, opening act Bobby Lee Rogers, Check Point Charlie, Vail Village

Week two

Thursday, April 15

7 p.m. -1 a.m. Poker Run, Lionshead and Vail Village

Friday, April 16

noon-2pm Little Hercules concert, Mid Vail

5 p.m.-7 p.m. Reggae showcase with Djate’, Musa Konate and the Lost Tribe and Yellowwall Dub Squad, Gondola Lawn

Saturday, April 17

2 p.m.-5 p.m. Pond skimming championships, Golden Peak

5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Clarence Clemons, Check Point Charlie, Vail Village

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