Local merchants wants more input
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
The main organizer of the Salute to American Veterans Rally gave a detailed presentation last week before elected leaders regarding the annual festival, considered one of the largest special events for Cripple Creek.
And once again, some local non-gaming business owners sought changes, saying they want more input on how the popular and controversial event is handled. Moreover, they claim the rally is negatively impacting their business.
At last week’s Cripple Creek City Council Meeting, Jim Wear, president of Pro Promotions, the company that puts on the Veterans and Biker rally, was invited to give the public an update. He outlined highlights of the 2017 rally and described a few major changes, including the starting point for this year’s ride.
During his presentation, Wear brought up the fact that 2017 was the event’s best year for turnout since the rally made its return to Teller County in 2011. The ride and weekend full of veteran events attracts 10,000 to 15,000 motorcycles into Teller County alone.
According to Wear those numbers do not include the other spectators that attend the event that aren’t riding bikes. Wear went on to say that last year there were 20 different states represented at the rally and participants from foreign countries.
After Wear gave his speech about the rally, and outlined changes for the 2018 event, the floor was open to public comment. Immediately, local business owner Tim Braun stood up to voice his opinion on the biker rally. “On the 300 block of Bennett Avenue, there are eight stores that are run by veterans. It is disappointing to me that we are ignored as far as being a part of the rally,” blasted Braun.
He was referring to the fact that all of the stores that sit on the north side of Bennett Avenue on the 300 block miss out on the good spike in business on “Biker weekend.” According to multiple business owners on the block, the way the event is set up deters people from walking up the hill and into their businesses. All of the event vendors are set up on the west side of town and the 300 block barely receives any extra foot traffic from the rally.
“We don’t do any more business during the biker rally than we do on any other weekend in the summer time,” said Cripple Creek Candy shop owner John Freeman. Many business owners feel that they get left out due to the fact that there are no event vendors in that part of town. They noted that during other Cripple Creek events, such as the Ice Festival and Donkey Derby Days, they do see an increase in sales because there are vendors set up in front of their stores.
In response to these complaints, Wear said, “We haven’t been ignoring you. The reason there are no vendors in that area is due to safety concerns.” Wear added that the event organizers keep the road open to motorcycle traffic, and let motorcycles park on the main road. As a result, there is little room for the vendors to set up, according to the event organizer.
He pointed out that the other events held in Cripple Creek close the road completely, but they chose not to pursue that action because of the large number of motorcycles. “The vendors need 20 feet of space to set up and on that part of Bennett there just isn’t the room when you have traffic running through there,” Wear said.
The rally organizer then told the crowd that the Salute to American Veterans group was working on ways to attract people into that part of town. One idea he cited involved having military equipment displays in this section of Bennett.
Braun made it clear that the business owners would like to be part of the discussion during the decision-making process. Many of the business owners in this part of town believe they have not been included in the biker rally discussions in past years. They also have complained about a big plummet in business from what they normally generate during this prime time of year.
The American Salute Veterans Rally is typically held in in the middle of August.