Vail Daily editorial: The land of the free
People around the world are still catching their breath from the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Audiences were thrilled by the racing, and two weeks’ worth of concerts and celebrations in Vail and Avon provided big fun off the slopes.
But let’s look for a moment at the crowds at both the off-slope events and the racing. TV audiences — most of whom were prime-time viewers in Europe — saw thousands of people stomping and hooting in Redtail Stadium in Beaver Creek. A lot of the credit goes to the weather. With a combination of mild to warm temperatures and picture-perfect Colorado blue sky, it was easy to spend part of the day at the races. There were days when little more than a sweater was required.
Chalk up the weather to good fortune — exactly a year ago, we were still digging out from a series of very large storms that thrilled skiers and boarders but clogged highways, driveways and parking lots. Getting just about anywhere was a breeze this year.
But beyond the weather, the big, noisy crowds at Redtail Stadium, Championships Plaza at Solaris in Vail and even Apres Avon events can be explained in one four-letter word: free. We won’t have solid information for a while about where people live who attended the races and concerts, but it’s almost certain that many, if not most, of the people who attended live here.
And while much of the rest of the world thinks of our fair valley as the playground of the rich — and it is, to a large extent — most of the people who live here aren’t affluent by the standards of most Americans or Europeans.
For most of us, “free” is a big draw. And we’re used to it. The Vail Valley Foundation, which organized the championships, is also responsible for free concerts in the summer and other events that make living here a little more special than it already is.
The idea for free, especially for the concerts, came only fairly recently to event organizers. In fact, the original idea for off-slope activities in Vail included charging for tickets at the race finish area at Golden Peak. But it quickly became apparent that organizers couldn’t get enough people into a ticketed event Golden Peak to create the kind of vibrancy they wanted the world to see — and talk about.
So Championships Plaza was born.
We don’t talk about “American” ideas very often, but what could be more American than ensuring that just about anyone who wanted to go to the races or the public celebrations could attend?
When President Andrew Jackson opened up the White House to the public for his first inaugural celebration in 1829, revelers trashed the place, but it was part of the seventh president’s idea that the government rightly belonged to its people.
The crowds in Vail and Beaver Creek were far better behaved, but the spirit is the same — we just held a great event, and the people of this valley were able to truly enjoy it. Credit the Vail Valley Foundation for opening the doors to a great, great party.