Vail Pioneer Weekend could draw a big crowd to town

Event is for those who were in town between 1962, 1985

Packy Walker, left, and Bart Garton at the 2012 Vail Pioneers Weekend. This weekend marks the return of the event.
Vail Daily archive photo

After a couple of pandemic-forced years off, the Vail Pioneers Weekend returns this year. The events are scaled back a bit, but interest is still high.

Organizer Packy Walker has been running the event, held every few years, since the 1990s. This year’s event sounds like it’s going to be a hit. Walker said as of Thursday he’s seen more than 1,500 RSVPs.

“My phone is ringing off the hook,” Walker said

Given that there’s still some uncertainty due to the pandemic, Walker said all this year’s events will be free.

“If you want a hot dog, you pay for a hot dog. If you want a beer, you pay for a beer,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to mail out refund checks.”

Support Local Journalism

Walker has been in Vail since the 1970s, and has left more than a little  good-natured mayhem in his wake. He showed up to vote on a proposed aquatic center in swim fins and a snorkel, and is well-known for his one-man, usually topical, displays during the Vail America Days parade.

Rod Slifer said he’s likely to attend at least a bit of the weekend’s get-togethers.

“It’ll be great to see everybody,” Slifer said.

Slifer noted that he first came to Vail on May 1, 1962, before the resort opened for its initial season. Slifer, now 87, believes he’s the last of the season-one crew still alive.

Another longtime resident, Dave Chapin, came to Vail in the early 1980s. Chapin said he recently registered for Sunday’s event at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Chapin said. “I went to the last (event at Dobson Ice Arena) and that was great.”

This year’s events start Friday.

Vail Resorts provided 600 lift tickets to Mid Vail for some entertainment from 3 to 6 p.m. Those tickets are available only to Pioneer Weekend participants with confirmation emails

“The Vail Mountain team is so excited to be welcoming Vail Pioneers Weekend,” Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Beth Howeard said. “This is such a special occasion to honor the legacy of so many people have left on our mountain and community.”

The support for the weekend has also come in the form of some cash donations from the town of Vail and several residents. Slifer wrote a check, as did longtime resident Bill Hanlon.

The weekend continues Saturday with an informal get-together hosted by Garfinkel’s and Bart & Yeti’s. Walker said an outdoor liquor license has been issued for the mall area.

The weekend wraps up Sunday with an event at the amphitheater set to run from noon to 6 p.m.

Walker said he’d like everyone in and seated by 12:30 p.m. or so. Pete Seibert will make some remarks, followed by Vail Municipal Judge Buck Allen going over a list of those who didn’t live to make the event. The event closes with a bang with the Fabulous Femmes performing.

Walker said any un-spent funds from the weekend will be donated to an educational fund for Ute Indians and who attend this weekend’s events will be asked to contribute to the fund.

“They were here first,” Walker said.

For more information, go to

Support Local Journalism