Our View: ‘Keepin’ it free’ costs money | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: ‘Keepin’ it free’ costs money

— The first signs of spring were plain as day last week: 50-degree temperatures, bits of exposed grass on south-facing lawns, fly-fishers in the Yampa River, and a series of snowstorms that quickly reminded us that winter hasn't quite relinquished its grasp on the Yampa Valley.

Another sign sure to bring smiles to the faces of residents is a reminder that it won't be long before we're all celebrating the 20th year of the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series. The favorite Steamboat tradition — readers voted it the No. 1 Best Recurring Event in the Pilot & Today's Best of the Boat community survey — is holding a fundraiser at 9 p.m. Friday at Old Town Pub. Admission is a $20 donation at the door.

Steamboat plays host to a lot of worthy fundraisers each year. At first glance, one for the Free Summer Concert Series might seem excessive. It isn't.

The motto for this year's Free Summer Concert Series is "Keepin' it free." But as series board member Scott Fox pointed out, "It ain't free." It takes a big-time budget to put on a free concert series that attracts nationally recognized musical acts to Northwest Colorado. The nonprofit series is funded by donations, sponsors, and beer and vendor sales at the concerts.

The series fell on hard times a couple of years ago, but inspired by a fresh group of passionate residents and business leaders, the Free Summer Concert Series is headed in the right direction again. For example, new to this year's concerts is a Music Lovers Tent that businesses can rent for $3,000, or $5,000 if they'd like title sponsorship for that particular concert. Organizers already have sold the tent for all five concerts.

It's that kind of thinking that will allow the series to spend as much as $60,000 on performers this year. That's up from $40,000 last year. And newer board members such as Fox and Coleman Cook have their sights set even higher. They're working toward a future in which the concert series has $100,000 or more to spend each year attracting major musical acts to Steamboat Springs.

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The reward will be more than better-quality shows for residents. While the concert series already has a positive impact on the local economy on the nights of concerts — picture the thousands of concert-goers streaming through downtown Steamboat post-show — series organizers want the concerts to be noteworthy to the extent that they attract overnight visitors to the valley.

We share their enthusiasm not only for the Free Summer Concert Series, but for the potential to grow one of Steamboat's favorite summer pastimes. If you've ever thought to yourself, "I'd pay $5 to go to this concert," but you didn't have to pay a thing, now's a good time to consider donating to a wonderful community tradition. After all, it takes money to keep it free.

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