Rainbow Weekend bookings close to last year's

Chamber estimates 9,800 people will be in town this weekend for myriad outdoor events

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The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association estimates that Steamboat's lodging will be 65 percent full Saturday night. That's an estimated 9,800 people businesses can anticipate being in town for an event-packed Rainbow Weekend, about 300 visitors shy of projected estimates for the same weekend in 2003.

Rainbow Weekend highlights a variety of special events, including the hot air Balloon Rodeo, Art in the Park, the Mountain Madness Half Marathon, two Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series performances, the Cowpie Classic Rugby Tournament, the Steamboat Powderkeg Volleyball Tournament and a free concert by Sonia Dada.

The scenic Balloon Rodeo takes flight early Saturday and Sunday mornings, where up to 47 hot air balloons will inflate and take off simultaneously from the hay meadow next to the Meadows parking lot. The balloons will compete in events such as rodeo roping and the Don Quixote race.

Art in the Park, an arts and crafts festival featuring 128 artists displaying handmade work in wood, metal, clay, leather, fiber, glass, jewelry, fine art and photography, follows the balloon rodeo at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in West Lincoln Park downtown. Live entertainment will be provided both days with performances by bands, juggling, belly dancing and West African dancing and singing.

Saturday night, the Steamboat Springs Free Concert Series continues with Sonia Dada playing diverse rock, soul and ethnic-fused sounds at 5:30 p.m. on Headwall at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

Several sporting events also bring stiff competition and crowds to town this weekend. Twelve Western rugby teams will compete in the 30th annual Cowpie Classic rugby tournament at Ski Town Fields, next to the tennis bubble.

At least 250 doubles volleyball teams from throughout the state will compete on the grass and sand courts at Howelsen Park during the Steamboat Powderkeg Volleyball Tournament on Friday through Sunday. The Ski Town USA Golf Classic to benefit Yampa Valley Medical Center takes place all day Friday and Saturday at Sheraton Golf Course and Catamount Ranch & Club.

And the 26th annual Mountain Madness Half Marathon, one of Steamboat's oldest running races, starts at 8 a.m. Sunday from the Howelsen Hill tennis courts. The race includes a 10K and two-mile fun run, as well.

Chamber projections for the middle of next week predict lodging occupancy at 34 percent of capacity, or 5,100 visitors, by July 14. That's 300 visitors short of estimates for the comparable Wednesday night last year.

For July 17, the chamber currently predicts visitors being down 1,300 people for a total of 11,700 visitors on that Saturday night, compared to 13,000 on the equivalent night in 2003. Steamboat's lodging capacity is 19,056 visitors, according to chamber estimates.

The number of visitors is expected to increase when the chamber releases new estimates next week.

The chamber's lodging barometer is not a scientific poll, but rather a sampling that is intended as a planning tool to help business owners plan ahead for the coming week. It is published Wednesdays, before each weekend, for the upcoming eight-day week starting Saturday. Walk-in business can alter estimates considerably.

-- To reach Jennie Lay call 871-4210

or e-mail jlay@steamboatpilot.com

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