Vail America Days parade returns to smaller crowds in 2022 |

Vail America Days parade returns to smaller crowds in 2022

The Vail Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team was back as a crowd favorite during the Vail America Days Monday in Vail. The team has been performing in the parade for more than 30 years.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily
2022 Crowd Favorite floats Eagle County Veterans Lawn Chair Demonstration Team Alpine Arts was both a crowd favorite and the most on-theme entry —Town of Vail

VAIL — You know the Vail America Days parade is back in force when the Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team starts sounding off.

The parade returned to Vail on Monday for the first time since 2019, bringing much smaller crowds than it used to. Three years ago, 1,197 cars lined the Frontage Roads after spilling out of the parking structures. On Monday, the car count was barely a quarter of those 2019 numbers at 345.

There were less floats in 2022 as well, but the classics were still in full effect.

Lawn Chair Demonstration Team leader Gary Pesso shouted instructions to his team of nine, which included a second generation of lawn chair demonstrators, including Pesso’s son Oliver. Oliver, 24, participated in his first lawn chair demonstration team event when he was 2 years old.

“This is our 38th year,” Pesso said. “But we’ve missed one, and with COVID, this is probably our 35th parade.”

Two of those performances have taken place on what Pesso called “The Ultimate Lawn,” that of the White House in Washington, D.C. The Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration team performed at former President Bill Clinton’s Inauguration in 1992, and again at George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2000.

A tradition within a tradition, lawn chair team member Jim Swanson received a pitcher of water over the head from his oldest friend in Vail, Colorado Sen. Kerry Donovan.

“I was riding the bus from East Vail on my first day of second grade, sitting by myself, and she got on the bus for her first day of kindergarten and sat next to me,” he said.

Donovan has been drenching Swanson with water ever since. This year, as the Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team made its way past Bart and Yeti’s in Lionshead, Donovan had a full pitcher of water waiting for Swanson, taking him by surprise as he rounded the corner.

“She does it to me every year,” he said.

Another Vail America Days tradition is to start the parade with the loudest vehicles so kids know the parade is coming. The parade typically starts in Golden Peak and runs along Meadow Drive all the way to Lionshead; this year a group of 17 Harley Davidson riders led the parade. As they approached, all kids knew the floats were near as the Harley engine noise echoed throughout town.

Harley rider Ben Stewart, 23, was the group’s youngest rider. Originally from Texas, he now lives in Gypsum where he rides a 2006 Harley Davidson Street Bob. This was his first year participating in the Vail America Days parade.

“We’re just a bunch of friends who like to ride Harleys,” he said.

Other usual floats that were back for 2022 included the Vail Resorts, Eagle County Republicans, Canine Companions and Alpine Arts Center.

Lauren Merrill carried on the Alpine Arts Center’s annual tradition by hosting a week-long art camp prior to the event, in which kids designed the parade float.

This year, kids like Red Sandstone second-grader Camila Karam Rizk joined the Alpine Arts camp to create a “Big Rock Candy Mountain” float with ski mountain themed areas like Hershey’s Halfpipe, Dippin’ Dots Bowl and Twizzler Terrain Park.

Merrill said her father, Bob Merrill, helped mount the Big Rock Candy Mountain to a trailer so it could be transported through the parade with Camila and the other kids who helped design it riding along and passing out candy.

Vail Resorts’ float celebrated 60 years of chairlifts in Vail, with various artifacts on display from December 1962, when the mountain opened to skiers.

The Eagle County Republicans’ float took aim at inflation and high gas prices, with the President Joe Biden “I did that” slap sticker displayed next to a sign saying gas was $4.68 per gallon.

As the Eagle County Republicans reached the end of the parade route, a group of four fighter jets flew low over the crowd, causing a deafeningly load roar.

“That’s the sound of freedom right there,” said Eagle County Republicans’ new chair Tony Martinez.

Korean War Veteran Alan Nottingham said he was happy to make the trip up from Eagle to participate in the parade on Monday, once he found out he could hitch a ride through the parade. Alan and his wife C.C. caught a ride through the parade in a convertible car with Hugo and Jackie Benson.

“I like being here, I just don’t like walking it anymore,” Nottingham said.

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