Cultural event honors heritage

WestFest should stimulate late-summer tourism

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— The local organizer of a western heritage festival that began in Copper Mountain 14 years ago promises spurs and chaps aplenty when WestFest comes to Steamboat Springs this Labor Day weekend. The city decided Tuesday night to grant $25,000 to support WestFest, a two-day music and cultural festival that is being organized locally by Doug Terry of Terry Sports.

"We've been trying to replace the vintage car races for years with a top-notch well-known event," Terry said.

Terry, who thinks WestFest is a perfect fit for Steamboat, said he got lucky when a major investor dropped out at Vail, which was supposed to host this year's festival.

City Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell, who is also a member of the lodging committee, said she thinks the event is very important to stimulate the late-summer tourist season.

"Ever since we lost the vintage car races we have not been able to have any combination of events substantial enough to bring back the volume of business," Connell said. Connell said she still hopes to one day get the car races back.

The $25,000 the city pledged is contingent on Terry completing a number of tasks, not the least of which is obtaining a special use permit from the city.

The two-day festival, which may be held at any of three venues, will feature country and western music, western and Native American "camps" and vendors from Native American tribes and western towns. There will be traditional western food and horse rides available, Terry said.

The three possible venues include the Torian Plum tennis courts, the Headwall at the mountain base and Howelsen Hill.

Country and western performer Michael Martin Murphey, who began the festival 14 years ago, is helping Terry organize Steamboat's WestFest. The festival will headline a major performer each day, in addition to other bands. On a list of possible headliners are Lyle Lovett and Lee Ann Womack.

The festivals' organizers and a production company have signed on to produce WestFest in Steamboat for three years, though there is still a good deal of work to do to make it a success, Terry said. In order to get prime entertainers to come to Steamboat, Terry will have to raise money and sell sponsorships to generate at least $200,000. The first $100,000, he said, is already taken care of in the form of private donations. He's looking now to get sponsorships for the event to raise another $100,000. The more money, the better the talent, he said. Tickets will likely go for $26 or $27 each day, he said.

Terry acknowledges he and the other investors will probably lose money this first year, but will be able to both bring in summer tourists to spend money in town and start a tradition.

"The key is to get WestFest started in Steamboat so that we can have it for the following two years and build upon it," Terry said.

The WestFest event is taking place in Colorado Springs this year over the July 4 weekend, though Terry thinks the time between the events is long enough to insure the Steamboat WestFest will still be popular.

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