Tis the season for ringing in retail
The cynical side of Christmas goes something like this: people give and receive gifts, so merchants devise ways to sell goods and come up with dressed-up opportunities for the exchange of money and goods.So Vail and Minturn merchants are capitalizing on the cynical reality of the season by dressing up for the holidays, each with its own version of a holiday market.”We all have the same problems, so we’re trying to get people up for those weekends before Christmas when it’s slow but the snow is good,” Vail businessman Jonathan Staufer says of Vail’s need for increased revenue.Staufer is one of the organizers of the first Vail Holiday Fair, held onMeadow Drive in conjunction with the Sonnenalp Resort’s German Family Christmas. With 15-plus vendors, a calendar of activities and Vail’s 40th anniversary kick-off party, it’s a festive opportunity for Vail merchants to make extra cash this season, but it’s not entirely a valley original, if you ask the folks down the road in Minturn.Minturn is the valley’s historical railroad town between Vail and Beaver Creek known for its restaurants and shops lining Main Street and popular summer outdoor farmer’s market. Last year the town decided to create a winter holiday version of its summer market. The gathering of craftsmen, food vendors and local businesses worked fairly well, so organizers are taking another shot at the event. Only this time, like its summer counterpart, the market appears to be growing.With 40 booths, blazing fire pits and Santa on hand for the kids, Minturn believes it has something to brag about where holiday markets are concerned.”We’ll have a wide selection of local crafts, some gourmet food products for entertaining guests through the holidays and a lot of things you won’t be able to find in shops around Vail,” says market director Liz Campbell.Last summer when rumors began spreading that Vail was organizing a holiday market, some Minturnites were disgruntled that the world-class ski resort village was merely copying something Minturn had created in a time when all the valley’s communities are vying for tourist dollars. But Staufer says he sees Vail’s efforts as a complement to Minturn’s established hometown market. And his motives are probably not much different than Minturn’s.”We’re doing this to keep independent business people alive,” Staufer says.Competition is at the forefront of capitalism. So while each community can boast a holiday market, each is also offering a different spin to keep things fresh for tourists and locals. While the similarities are obvious they’re both holiday markets, if you need it spelled out Vail and Minturn are competing with their own brand of mountain appeal.With the Vail Holiday Fair comes cooperation with the Sonnenalp’s German Family Christmas think Vail’s self-professed Bavarian appeal. The Sonnenalp’s director of sales, Katy McCabe, says the resort hotel is creating a holiday environment for its guests and locals throughout December. On Friday nights the hotel will host wine-maker dinners.”So we have a special menu set up,” McCabe says. “It will be a four-course meal with different wines from the vineyards. And there will be somebody there from the vineyard discussing the wines.”Other activities include cookie decorating, ornament making and Christmas storytelling. These events will be open to the public.Down the road in Minturn, the fare will be community-oriented and centered on wholesome mountain living (picture burly mountain dwellers sipping egg nog), inviting valley visitors and locals to become part of the town’s three weekend celebration of Christmas. All this comes with Santa, dancers, a draft-horse wagon ride on Dec. 21 and fireworks to top off the end of the market season at the town’s Million Lights of Minturn celebration (which might not offer exactly a million lights, but nobody seems to have time to count).Campbell says the market has been organized so that a person can return each weekend and find new vendors, making a return trip to Minturn appealing.Also appealing to parents is a kid drop-off at the Cougar Ridge Activity Center on Main Street. For a reasonable hourly rate, kids can play and parents can shop.For kids of all ages, Santa can be all that is needed to make a holidayevent. The Vail Valley can boast one of the most authentic Santas found in the high country, according to both market organizers. And both Vail and Minturn have found a way to share Santa, embodying the spirit of cooperation during this season of free-market competition.”He’s a great Santa Claus,” says Staufer. “The beard is real.”And the effort to appeal to your pocketbook is real too. So, if you’relooking for an excuse to spend cash this holiday season, Minturn’s market runs on Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 21, with its Million Lights of Minturn celebration Dec. 21 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. The Vail Holiday Fair will be held Dec. 21 and Dec. 27. For more details on Vail’s market, Staufer suggests people log onto http://www.vailholidayfair.com.
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