Missing Links- Playing the Special Events Card

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Playing the Special Events Card

Rick Langenberg

Hold off on your trip back East or to California, Vegas, Montana or wherever you are planning for a quick or extended getaway. And delay those dreaded trips with your family and junkets with your brother or sister-in-law—at least for another week or so.

This weekend will bustle with a huge bombardment of special events in the Teller high country, easily surpassing our friends from Breckenridge or Vail. It almost represents what this area could become if people put their collective minds together. I say use these festivals as a drawing point, rather the usual tug of war over what future development will save our area and turn us into a dynamic grown-up community; and of course, force us to invest more money into another economic feasibility, housing or transportation study.

Down the Pass, the 77th annual Bronc Day in Green Mountain Falls on Saturday marks the best setting in the area and possibly the state for a mountain town parade and festival, and demonstrates that positive things can happen to an area, despite the nay-sayers. A number of years back the critics declared Bronc Day as dead in the water. They cited the statistics of growing event competition and the tough obstacles the Bronc Day organizers faced. Unfortunately, every negative fact they hurled out was true.

However, in Green Mountain Falls, we don’t always follow prevailing trends and common logic. Anyone who doubts that fact needs to attend a local trustees meeting.

But due to the work of former mayor Dick Bratton and other civic leaders at the time, the festival somehow survived and got better every year, even if the parade didn’t amount to much for a five-year or so period. And with the revitalization of the Ute Pass Triangle Chamber of Commerce and other new positive developments, the festival now ranks as one of the best one-day events in the area. The nay-sayers have been silenced

Then, in Woodland Park on both Saturday and Sunday, we have the Mountain Arts Festival outside the Ute Pass Cultural Center. This event has become a mega-institution for some 30 years that easily killed the myth of a lack of artistic talent in the high country. And if jazz and wine is part of your fancy, then just head over to the Woodland Station area on Saturday for the Vino and Notes festival. Ben and Jamie Caperton have turned this into quite a lively event, with great Colorado wineries, music and good times, and a more comfortable atmosphere than the major wine gala in Manitou Springs. This spot also could emerge as a future magnet for pop-up tents and mini-festivals and year-round events, instead of catering to another make-believe business enterprise, or a development that no one really wants.

And for those who like cowboy and livestock action, then head on up to Cripple Creek for the Teller County Fair. For those who want to try their luck on the local links, the Shining Mountain Golf Club is hosting its annual 36-hole club SM Club Championship. Jodie Hale, the recently rehired greens and golf grounds guru has been doing a bang up job in resurrecting the course from earlier bad decisions made by a previous crew.

Then on Saturday evening, we have the Bike the Night 9-mile event, sponsored by the Mountain Top Cycling Club, starting at the WP Senior Center. This crazy event is expected to attract at least 40 hard-core amateur cyclists.

So any complaints about activities in the high country can be put to bed. It displays what can occur in our little abode when it comes to special events. Forget all this talk about a destination area and various theories about pet dream projects that will never occur, as special events is where it’s at, when it comes to the area’s future potential.

This is a good way to unite our various and often competing factions. Face it, that’s what the resort communities have done in a larger way. Accept reality. The summer promotional activity at Colorado resorts played a major role in turning Cripple Creek into a ghost town in the late 1980s, at least according to several former local leaders, most of whom are no longer alive. The Creek did great with tourism in the 1960s and 70s, but then got confronted with major competition from the mountain resorts and encountered extremely bleak winters. This stifled the town’s prospects, other than the melodrama shows at the Imperial.

That forced the town’s hand into pursuing limited stakes gaming, which seemed like a great idea until virtually every state in the country did the same thing. The Deadwood, South Dakota model was a good start for a certain period.

Maybe, it’s our turn to fight back against the big resorts by developing a lively event and festival schedule, with something planned every weekend in the summer and fall. The big boys have great events, but they are often extremely expensive and prove to be a hassle for many visitors.

What we lack in glitz, we can make up with folksy fun. We don’t have the parking nightmares of a Manitou Springs and have the space with the new Woodland Station and the forthcoming amenities of a future aquatic center.

So our great city leaders need to start putting those great studies away and gamble on special events for a change. Maybe we can form an overall county tourism and events coalition to coordinate festivals better, so six major events don’t occur on a single weekend. They can learn some lessons from Manitou Springs, which has turned several of its events into national attractions.

But please, no more transportation studies and talk about what this area should become when it grows up, or continuing the usual debate over having a destination area and Planning 101 Sessions. That was tried during the push for a bypass 20-plus years ago, and that debacle failed.

So for next weekend, go out and have some fun and see how these festivals can be improved. Leave the studies in the dust, or better yet, throw them into a campfire.