Vail special events coordinator retiring after 24 years serving town
VAIL — From the GoPro Mountain Games to Spring Back To Vail to the farmers market to Bravo! Vail to lacrosse, volleyball and soccer tournaments, the events schedule in Vail has been filling up for the past several years. Sybill Navas played a major role in spoiling locals and tourists alike.
Navas spent her final day as Vail’s special events coordinator Friday. It’s a position she’s held since 2002, when the job and the town’s commission on special events was formed.
“I’m going to work on my golf game,” Navas said with a laugh on Thursday, adding she wants to travel during her retirement. “I just feel like I need a rest.”
A much deserved rest, at that. Navas moved from Boulder to Vail in 1974, and she served on the Town Council from 1993-2001, when she began getting interested in events.
SPECIAL EVENT FOOTPRINT
The town had an events budget of $20,000 back then. In 2015, there was a $49 million direct economic impact to Vail’s businesses generated by 25 events the town spent $10,000 or more on, all events Navas helped plan and operate.
For every dollar the town spent on events in 2015, it returns $35 in payback, and it returns $1.15 in tax payback (a 15 percent return), according to RRC & Associates, a Boulder-based firm hired by the town to do economic studies.
“Sybill has been instrumental in helping grow Vail’s special event footprint and has provided a high level of service over the years to helping events grow and succeed in Vail,” said Chris Romer, CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, in an email. “She will be missed.”
NOTHING TO MISS
Navas remembers traveling to Vail’s sister city, St. Moritz in Switzerland, as a member of the Town Council and seeing how that town used activities and events as a marketing tool.
“They had weekly bridge club on their schedule,” she said, “and we had all these things no one knew about.”
Shortly after, she helped form the Vail Commission on Special Events, a seven-member board of residents that allocates funds for events throughout the year. Navas was contracted to work with the community to drive interest for a season-end event in the winter, which became Spring Back to Vail, modeled off of Whistler’s closing events in Canada.
“I remember when I came here you could walk out the door on the last day of the ski season and you didn’t have to come back until the Fourth of July,” Navas said recalling Vail 40 years ago, “and then you could leave the day after Labor Day and come back at Thanksgiving and you wouldn’t have missed anything. It’s certainly not that way anymore.”
Besides helping bring high-quality events to Vail throughout the years, Navas has touched everyone she’s come across.
“I have never found a person that hasn’t said she’s one of the most helpful and upbeat people that they’ve ever met,” said Kelli McDonald, the town’s economic development manager who worked in the same office as Navas. “She will really be missed.”
Barry Davis is the chairman of the town’s commission on special events, and he credited Navas as helping guide him in the business of events.
“There will probably be a learning curve as some producers learn how much she did for them and as other staff learn how much Sybill did for them,” Davis said, adding that he’s excited Navas can get out and use the camper she talks about.
‘LIFE OF THEIR OWN’
So next time you’re on the lawn at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater for Hot Summer Nights, strolling the farmers market or enjoying a tasty food festival, think of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it, and how one woman helped guide Vail to what it is today.
“It’s been a very fast-paced and deadline-driven position,” Navas said. “I’ve loved working with all of these different varieties of people within the community, and the support the town has given is awesome.
“I think the events have taken on almost a life of their own.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.
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