Vail’s event scene may be evolving with small shows |

Vail’s event scene may be evolving with small shows

Small-scale performances have been a big hit with both guests and locals this year

Performances around Vail's resort villages and at a new, small stage at Ford Park have been a big hit with guests and locals alike this summer.
John-Ryan Lockman | Special to the Daily
Small is beautiful
  • Performances currently are limited to audiences of 175 at outdoor venues including the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater and a new small stage in the lower bench of Ford Park.

Vail’s summer economy was transformed by events. Now, smaller events may be leading another kind of transformation.

Events including the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the Vail Jazz Festival and the GoPro Mountain Games have had to either scale back or cancel this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In place of those big events, smaller-scale performances have popped up in Vail Village, Lionshead and a new, small stage on the lower bench of Ford Park.

Those small performances have been a hit, with guests, and may continue in the future.

“I think we’re in the midst of a bit of an evolution,” Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said in a phone interview.

Event promoters have been forced to get creative, Vlaar said. And the results have been good.

Perhaps the most creative idea for the summer has come from Scott Rednor of the Shakedown Bar in Vail Village. Rednor and a group of players have put on a number of shows at both the Ford Park stage and in the resort villages.

The performances and — temporarily — allowing open alcohol consumption in parts of town, “have changed the feel of the whole town,” Rednor said

Will events go to paid attendance?

The question, though, is if those small-scale events are sustainable.

Talking to the Vail Town Council at that group’s Sept. 1 meeting, Vail Special Event Coordinator Jeremy Gross said “sponsorship is going to look very different” in the future.

Sponsors want visibility for their products, and Gross said that’s harder to do with smaller events. The lack of sponsorship may require some events to switch to a paid attendance model.

Rednor said he’s confident that a sponsorship model can be developed, noting that a performance in a resort village in the winter could have more exposure than events at established venues.

The Vail Commission on Special Events is going to include a combination of sponsorship and experience as it evaluates events seeking funding for 2021 events.

But the experience is going to be essential.

Improving the guest experience

At the same meeting, Councilmember Kim Langmaid noted that the need for smaller, “more personal” experiences was discussed at a council retreat in 2015.

And, while certain big events can be a big economic driver, many of those events don’t necessarily bring guests to the community.

In an email, Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer wrote that while events are a big part of the valley’s economy in the spring, summer and fall, outside of the valley’s signature events, people “do not come specifically for many events.”

But, Romer added, events serve an important purpose: improving the guest experience. That vitality in town can drive repeat visitation, Romer wrote.

Smaller events such as those put on this summer can accomplish that goal. Still, he added, there’s plenty of room for events of all sizes, once audience capacity limits are lifted.

In a subsequent phone interview, Romer said that while people may not come to the valley for a specific event, those events in general have a big influence on guest satisfaction.

It’s what Vlaar often calls “surprise and delight” for guests.

Solving the sponsorship riddle could add another element to a successful events picture when bigger audiences are allowed.

Rednor is looking forward to further evolving the town’s events, saying he and the group of musicians that play at Shakedown are taking the experience of the bar and moving it out onto the streets.

“It’s really fun, and it’s been really, really rewarding,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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