Major festival may be ahead

Groups look to set up Labor Day event

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— If Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. achieves its goals, next year Steamboat Springs will host a major Labor Day music festival.

"We are extremely confident that we will pull something of significance off," Ski Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said Thursday.

The festival is looking to be an annual event that would consistently draw visitors to Steamboat Springs over the Labor Day weekend.

The catch is that a large festival costs more than $600,000, and the city of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Lodging Committee, just to name a few key groups, will have to help foot the bill, Wirth said.

However, the groups are talking.

Wirth said a task force with members of the business community has been working on programming an annual event for Labor Day, essentially replacing the vintage car races that once were held during the holiday weekend.

A music festival produced by Ski Corp. will be that event.

The problem is finding acts that will attract the right demographic.

"To bring music back, it has to be accepted by the community at least the council and the lodging community," said Great Knight Productions' John Waldman, who is working on the task force.

For the past two years, Waldman brought the neo jam band String Cheese Incident to Steamboat for the Fourth of July Independence Incident festival.

This year most likely was the last time for the event, Waldman said.

In mid-August, members of the Steamboat Springs City Council decided not to support the event in the future because the fans had a negative impact on the community.

"When people come to this county, we want them to respect our community and respect our lifestyle," City Council President Kathy Connell said.

She added the community and the council need to think about how to better educate visitors to the valley on that matter. However, as far as big music goes, Connell said acts that would bring in more diversity, and not a subculture, is something the council would consider supporting.

"If our business community is trying to put something together that would be good for the community, it would behoove the City Council to look closer at being supportive of those efforts," Connell said.

The city isn't in the position to contribute a large sum of money to an event, she said.

Recently, the council gave up its funding to Michael Martin Murphey's West Fest, scheduled for Labor Day this year but canceled for financial reasons.

Council members have said that music festival was more reflective of the community, but it still couldn't financially support it.

But the council's blessing is still needed for a large music festival, in terms of allowing the event to happen and providing infrastructure support.

Connell wears two hats when it comes to bringing big music to Steamboat Springs.

She also is a member of the Lodging Committee, a local business association made up of lodging interests.

"The Lodging Committee gives cash if it believes in (an event). A lot of the times it gives complementary lodging," Connell said.

Both would be invaluable to a large music festival in Steamboat Springs.

The lodging community would support a music festival over Labor Day that will bring people to stay for multiple days, Lodging Committee Chairman Steve Dawes said.

"It has to be some kind of music that will appeal to a broad base of middle to upscale people," Dawes said.

But the question remains, what music will bring the right demographic to Steamboat for the business community to support, as well as the right the amount of people an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people needed for a big-name festival?

Western music and classic rock has been thrown around as ideas, Wirth said.

But he added that it would be premature at this point to say what acts would, or could, be hired to play in Steamboat.

"I think we would like to see a Western family music festival, but the realities of the expenses and potential revenues are somewhat staggering," Steamboat Springs Chamber Association Executive Vice President Sandy Evans-Hall said. "Just as the Aspen Jazz Fest has migrated from true jazz to music that will produce some known revenue, we will need to do the same or plan to substantially subsidize the event."

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