OktoberWest marks end to flurry for Chamber
September 20, 2009
A pie-eating contest, a mechanical bull and beer are closing out the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s slate of summer events this weekend.
OktoberWest ran across town, starting with a downtown bike parade and beer tastings Friday, going to a full day of beer and events at Gondola Square on Saturday and ending with specials at ski area restaurants today.
The Chamber planned the first-time fest as part of efforts to “create some vitality for the town,” Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall said. OktoberWest was one of several new events launched by the Chamber and Mainstreet Steamboat Springs to stimulate the Steamboat economy.
Some evidence suggested that it worked. Ray Cook and Laura Mascheroni were in town from California for a wedding and swung by the fest with 3-year-old Luke Mascheroni to see a friend ride the mechanical bull. They found out about OktoberWest through a flier at their hotel.
The pair marveled at the beautiful weather Saturday at Gondola Square.
“I like it because it’s more than just a ski town,” Cook said. “It’s family, there’s great restaurants, entertainment, fishing, river rafting, horseback riding.”
Roni Kirchhevel typically comes from Denver each year for the Steamboat Brewers’ Festival, she said. Because that event isn’t happening, her group of 15 came for OktoberWest instead. Kirchhevel said she preferred the format of past years.
“I liked how it was,” she said. “There were a lot more vendors and stuff, and we could hang out and kind of have a picnic.”
The Chamber will review events and decide how to handle them next year, Evans Hall said. Its other new event was last month’s All Arts Festival, which combined visual, performing and culinary arts. Evans Hall said she saw that festival as the greatest achievement of the new events.
“I was really pleased with what we were able to pull off,” she said.
The events have kept Chamber staff members hopping.
“I think it was a big challenge,” Evans Hall said. “I think staff has done an incredible job, really.”
Mainstreet extended its farmers market and tweaked the hours this year. The group also organized a Restaurant Week, which it plans to repeat the first week in November.
“People tend to do things if there’s something special to do instead of if it’s always available to do,” Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said.
Mainstreet moved its chili cook-off to Labor Day this year with that goal in mind. The event was scheduled to coincide with sidewalk sales for downtown businesses, she said.
Barnett also is plugging away on another new event, Sisters in Steamboat, scheduled for Oct. 16 to 18. She’s the only paid staff member for Mainstreet, so new events present a challenge.
“It certainly adds to my workload, but I’ve also had a lot of people step up and volunteer,” Barnett said.
Budgeting has been tricky for the Chamber and Mainstreet, both of which received less city money this year than last. The groups had to plan carefully.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to cut corners that doesn’t jeopardize the quality of the event,” Barnett said.
Evans Hall said the Chamber expects to repeat all of this year’s events next year and would start planning and budgeting in coming months.