Will committee help improve Avon events? | VailDaily.com

Will committee help improve Avon events?

Avon's long-running Salute to the USA celebration returns, as always, on July 3 this year. Nottingham Park will also host several new events, including a Vail International Dance Festival performance.
Dominique Taylor | dtaylor@vaildaily.com |

Mark your calendars

This year’s events calendar for Avon has old favorites — Salute to the USA is July 3, as always — along with some new additions, including:

• April 15: Easter egg hunt/roll, Nottingham Park.

• June 9, 10: Missoula Children’s Theatre.

• June 26, 27: Haute Route Rockies cycle tour.

• Sept. 9, 10: Zoppe Family Circus.

AVON — There’s a long history of bringing new events to Avon, but successful events can be tough to establish. That’s why Avon is taking a new approach this year.

The Avon Town Council earlier this month approved creating a 15-member events committee. The committee’s job is still evolving — the first organizational meeting isn’t until Wednesday. But the group has already sent a recommendation to the council, which was approved at the Tuesday meeting.

The Zoppe Family Circus is coming to Nottingham Park the weekend after Labor Day. The town approved $21,500 to bring the circus to town. Avon Town Council member Jake Wolf, who also serves on the committee, said the circus is a double win for Avon.

Wolf said the circus is popular with Spanish-speaking residents and guests. That’s a win for the town, he said. Additionally, the circus is in a tent. Given that post-Labor Day weather can be iffy, that’s another win, Wolf said.

Wolf is a professional musician, and has frequently criticized fellow council members and other town officials for their approach to events. Still, he said, he’s optimistic about the new direction the committee can provide. He’s also excited about the events coming to town so far this year.

Mayor Jennie Fancher said she’s also excited about this year’s event schedule. That schedule, now posted on the town’s website, includes a second appearance of the Cover Rock Music Festival, which brings in the top bands that re-create the sound of legendary groups.

The schedule also includes a new night of dance from the Vail International Dance Festival and performances by the Missoula Children’s Theatre.

Who’s in the mix?

Fancher said idea behind this year’s mix of events is to create a mix that attracts residents, helps businesses, and can attract visitors.

Wolf said there’s no way every event can hit all those targets, but that’s the goal. To do that, Wolf said he and others have talked to event producers and community event managers around the mountain region, from Vail to Eagle and from Snowmass to Steamboat Springs and Winter Park.

Winter Park and Snowmass host the Zoppe circus, and recommended it to Avon. Other events come from independent producers and promoters.

One of the challenges is that those producers and promoters are being courted by other communities.

Avon is a member of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. Fancher attends that group’s meetings. She said most of those towns are trying to accomplish many of the same goals.

“Everybody’s trying to make their mark, and everybody faces the same challenges,” Fancher said.

Most of those towns also look to Vail as they build their own event-promotions models. Vail has long been known for its summer events, but those events have grown significantly in the past 10 years or so.

That wasn’t an accident.

In the early 2000s, the town created the Vail Commission on Special Events, giving the group the responsibility to evaluate event proposals and to recommend town funding.

That group throughout the past few years has helped turn Vail into an events dynamo in the Rockies.

“There’s a lot to learn from Vail,” Fancher said. But, she added, Avon has to offer a different menu of events.

Mark Gordon served on the Vail Commission for Special events in 2004 — 2005, and rejoined the group in 2012 or so.

Defining success

“The key (for Avon) is to define success differently than Vail does,” Gordon said. “What do they want events to do? We’re very explicit about it.”

Vail’s formula focuses on economic development, while working to build an event portfolio that attracts visitors and local residents.

But while that mission was well defined early on, it took time for the volunteer commission to become an effective group.

That required a lot of effort from commission members, town elected officials, staff and residents, Gordon said.

Current Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno served on the events commission before she was elected to the council.

Bruno said that commission these days is more strategic and more driven by data as it evaluates proposals.

“What’s great about (the commission) is that it’s been a constant evolution,” Bruno said. “The atmosphere on the board is that events change, and the reason people come to Vail changes,” Bruno said. That means tactics have to change, too, she said.

While that level of success is the ultimate goal for Avon, Wolf and Fancher both said just copying Vail isn’t the answer.

“We’re going in the direction of how we can enhance the community,” Fancher said. “A byproduct is there will be events for guests, too.”

But, with a new performance stage and Nottingham Park’s growth into a true community gathering place, Fancher said the town is on the right track.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised with what they see in Avon this year,” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

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