Summer convention business looks strong

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When June rolls around this year, Steamboat won't see 5,000 road cyclists rolling into town.

June 2005 likely won't match June 2004 in terms of the sheer number of tourism-related events. But August might make up for it, tourism leaders say.

"Last year, June was intense," Chamber Communications Director Riley Polumbus said. "It was partly a matter of being lucky, just getting two major bicycle tours coming through town. I still think June is in good shape (for 2005), but August is starting to build. I think August is going to be a surprise."

The Denver Post Ride the Rockies bicycle tour and Bicycle Tour of Colorado both chose Steamboat last June as the spot for a night's layover in the midst of a ride across some of the state's high mountain passes. This year, the city of Salida gets that honor.

Polumbus said last year's bike tours exposed Steamboat's dining and shopping opportunities to thousands of people, and she's hopeful some of them will return for longer stays this summer.

Also difficult to replace will be last year's statewide convention of the Colorado Municipal League, which brought more than 600 people to town in June for as many as five days.

The regional convention of Rotarians will help fill in the convention business with 200 visitors from June 2 to 5 at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

Steamboat is scheduled to host four Triple Crown baseball and/or softball tournaments in June.

And Strings in the Mountains has expanded its music festival to include eight performances in June.

"Our new site allows us to keep our tent up year around," Strings president Kay Clagett said. "And that makes it easier to get ready for a new season. Part of our goal is to make our core season not so intense. Last year, we sometimes had shows five or six nights a week. This year, we're expanding the festival from six weeks to at least eight weeks."

Strings begins its season June 7 with a performance by the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, which will include young Steamboat musicians. Strings will bring a trio of bluegrass bands to town June 14 for a Thursday night concert. Tickets are $20.

"This bluegrass night is our community party," Clagett said.

Concerts at t=he tent will extend beyond the Aug. 21 end of the Strings festival, Clagett said. Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and Catamount Ranch and Club are each tentatively planning late August events, she said.

The Mustang Roundup returns again June 17 to 19, and locally based Rocky Peak Productions is intent on growing the Rio 24 Hours of Steamboat mountain bike race in its second year. The 24th annual Steamboat Marathon, to take place June 5, is such a mainstay that it's almost taken for granted.

The Steamboat Springs Pro-Rodeo Series begins June 17, coinciding with the Mustang Roundup.

Still, it may be August that provides much of summer's tourism thunder.

The inaugural Steamboat Wine Festival, paired with the second Beaux Arts Festival and Art Car Stampede, was deemed successful by resort officials last year. Both events are back on the calendar this year, with the Beaux Arts Festival spanning 10 days, from Aug. 4 to 14, and the wine festival taking place from Aug. 5 to 7.

The Steamboat Springs Grand Prix of Kart Racing, which attracts owners of souped up Go-Karts to the Meadows parking lot, moves up from September to Aug. 27 and 28 this year.

New events for August are built around the tendency of endurance athletes to travel to events and bring their families, Polumbus said.

They include the Steamboat Springs Triathlon Aug. 28 in the Lake Catamount area, the Wild West Relay, a team foot race from Fort Collins to Steamboat via the Medicine Bow Range and North Park, and Kent Eriksen's Tour de Steamboat century bike ride. The latter is a noncompetitive cycling event that will take road cyclists over Rabbit Ears and Gore passes. Competitive cycling great Andy Hampsten is expected in town for the event.

"I think more and more people are interested in doing those kinds of events, and I think the Routt County Riders will become more and more important in making Steamboat a bicycle-friendly destination," Polumbus said.

The summer wraps up with newly expanded aviation events and the Great American Wild West Show on Labor Day weekend, from Sept. 3 to 5.

The wild west show is being brought to town in honor of F.M. Light & Sons' centennial. It promises to "revive the legends of the American West," with two performances of trick riding and roping that includes a stagecoach stickup.

Polumbus predicted it would have wide family appeal.

Steamboat has hosted a modest vintage aircraft display on Labor Day weekend for a number of years. This year, that theme will be expanded with a remote controlled aircraft event Polumbus said. In addition, hang gliders and para-gliders will launch off the ski mountain and land just before a free concert on Headwall.

The schedule of free community concerts is tentatively due to be released in May, Polumbus said.

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