Year in review: Vail Symposium breaks attendance record in summer season |

Year in review: Vail Symposium breaks attendance record in summer season

Daily staff report
Juan F. Thompson, son of Hunter S. Thompson, reads from his memoir “Stories I Tell Myself.” This author event gave rare insight into the life, times and stories of the popular gonzo journalist and how his son, Juan, dealt with an unruly childhood.
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Top 5 programs

1. Educate! with Sir Ken Robinson

2. “Chasing Niagara” film screening

3. Learning to Fly with Steph Davis

4. “The Rider & The Wolf” film screening

5. Stem Cells: Exploring the Research Perspective

Celebrate 45 years

On Dec. 8, the Vail Symposium will celebrate 45 years of thought-leadership in the Vail Valley. There will be food, drinks, music by Vail’s own Rewind band, dancing and a toast to the colorful history and bright future of the Vail Symposium. Visit for information and tickets.

The Vail Symposium finished its summer season on Oct. 26 as the highest-attended season in the organization’s 45-year history, with 1,956 attendees at 25 programs that began in June. Attendance for the year as a whole, including 23 winter programs, totaled 3,516 attendees, which marks a 28 percent increase in attendance from audience totals of 2015.

“From within the organization, we’ve worked very hard to refresh the programming to a point that it matters to our community again,” said Dale Mosier, chairman of the Vail Symposium Board of Directors. “The caliber of the speakers, the value of information being offered and nights of entertainment have all come together in a way that we are glad our audience can appreciate.”

The hits

The most popular program of the summer season, with 450 attendees, featured Sir Ken Robinson and was presented in conjunction with Eagle County Schools on Oct. 14. Robinson’s TEDTalk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is the most-viewed TEDTalk in history, and his address to the local crowd offered no exception to the creative thinking that established Robinson as a global authority on education.

The program with the highest attendance of the winter season, with 234 attendees, featured wing suit flyer, BASE jumper and free climber Steph Davis as part of the free Unlimited Adventure series, presented in partnership with the Vail Public Library.

“This is a great example of the breadth and depth of what the Symposium has been able to offer in recent years,” Mosier said. “On one hand, we had a world-renowned intellectual addressing one of the most crucial issues of our time with education. On the other, we had Ms. Davis moving the audience with her exhilarating stories of climbing and BASE jumping. She described the highs and lows of her life to a point of palpable connection with everyone listening.”

Other highlights

The summer also included a medical panel with doctors from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center addressing the latest in cancer treatment. The film series held under the stars at Little Beach Park in Minturn drew 500 people over three movies. The summer’s consciousness series was again a favorite, with three programs and three workshops to challenge the parameters put on life by culture in the West.

There was also the Great Divide Debate, which put local high school students on stage with adults to expose generational political ideology, and a debate between the head of the Colorado Republican Party and the head of the Colorado Democratic Party moderated by Dick Lamb, 38th governor of Colorado, preceding the election.

The winter season presented Matt Richtel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; Juan F. Thompson, son of Hunter S. Thompson, sharing stories about his famous gonzo journalist father; and astrophysicist Nick Schneider discussing the scientific quest to discover life on other planets.

There was also a fireside chat with former Mayor of Denver Federico Pena and a very detailed discussion on the Iran Nuclear Deal by Michael Singh, the former director of Middle East affairs at the National Security Council.

New director

Among the year’s highlights was the announcement of hiring Kris Sabel as the Vail Symposium’s executive director effective Sept. 1. Sabel previously served in the role of executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center and brings a wealth of knowledge and professionalism to enforce the Symposium’s momentum.

“I was first able to get a sense for what the Symposium did as a collaborator while at the Vilar. Since taking a position within the organization, I see the importance and value of what the Symposium does as an informer and thought-leader in the community,” Sabel said. “I’m very excited to be a part of something that’s growing and something that benefits our local community so much.”

All programs for the Vail Symposium’s winter 2017 season will be released before Thanksgiving, with events beginning Dec. 1. There will be a fundraiser and celebration of 45 years of the Vail Symposium on Dec. 8.

“We want to thank every one of our audience members, donors and sponsors for their help in making 2016 a great success,” Mosier said. “The program committee has done a really incredible job with what is coming this winter. We are excited to share it all with you soon.”

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