Vail Daily column: Festival shows promise, but… |

Vail Daily column: Festival shows promise, but…

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

The town of Vail has a great opportunity with the proposed KAABOO music and arts festival. But, like most opportunities, there’s also some risk.

The founders of KAABOO, which got its start in 2015 in Del Mar, California, have joined with the Vail Valley Foundation to propose a three-day music, art, comedy and food event to take over much of Ford Park in August of 2017, the weekend after most Front Range schools have started. The idea is for a ticketed event that will draw people with a median age of 37 or so. This is an affluent group that, on the younger side of the age curve, is exactly the audience Vail wants for the future.

While the festival is still taking shape, some in Vail are already opposed — worried about noise and misbehavior, among other things.

Residents will have ample opportunity to learn and comment about the event at forums scheduled through July. The first is Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Grand View Room atop the Lionshead parking structure. The foundation is asking for approval by July 19.

Given the rough outline presented so far, residents’ worries seem to be misplaced. People paying $200 or more for a weekend festival ticket, along with a good bit more for lodging, are unlikely troublemakers. Police probably won’t see highly intoxicated KAABOO attendees wearing orange traffic cones as hats — something that happened after a concert a couple of years ago.

And given the Vail Valley Foundation’s track record putting on events, it’s a safe bet to presume KAABOO in Vail will be well run, with a minimum of community-annoying hassles.

On the other hand, town officials — who must issue a special use permit for the festival — should be wary of a few things.

Event promoters believe this festival could eventually attract as many as 30,000 people during a weekend. That’s a lot. Vail Mountain is theoretically managed for a maximum of 20,000 people at a time on the hill, and skier numbers meet or exceed that number from time to time.

That’s a lot of people passing through town. But those people get on the mountain from Vail Village and Lionshead, and are on our giant ski hill much of the day, not in the far-more-compact resort villages.

Putting that many people into and around Ford Park will take a lot of planning, and a good bit of sensitivity toward all the park’s neighbors.

It will also take planning to figure out where many of the festivalgoers will sleep. There are a lot of rooms in the Vail Valley. Again, though, festival organizers are talking about an event for about as many people as ever visit — albeit on a historically pretty-quiet weekend.

Backers say the festival could have as much as a 20-year lifespan. A lot can change in that time, especially in a place like Vail. Town officials would be wise to revisit the special permit every few years to ensure that potential problems are being quickly solved.

Despite legitimate questions about the festival’s impacts on parking, lodging and Ford Park, there don’t seem to be any deal-breakers in what’s been presented so far. Add in the Vail Valley Foundation’s proven ability to bring big events to Vail and KAABOO has the potential to have a lasting, positive impact on the valley.

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