It’s going to take a few months before the true economic impacts from the Fourth of July are realized, but anecdotally speaking the holiday weekend drew record crowds and boosted business activity in every town in Summit County.
Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, communications director for the town of Breckenridge, said it’s going to be at least two months before the town can compile sales tax data for July. And because the annual July Fourth parade is more or less a free-for-all, it’s impossible to gauge how many people attended. However, the buzz on the street among officials and residents was this year’s parade drew the biggest crowd in recent memory.
“It definitely felt to me that attendance was record breaking, but that would just be a feeling,” Dykstra-DiLallo said. “I’ve heard from a few local merchants who said they had a great weekend compared to last year.”
Chuck Struve, owner of Mountain Tees, Cabin Fever and Arctic Attitude in Breckenridge, took it a step further by saying although he saw similar sales increases across all three of his shops, this was his best Fourth of July weekend in 10 or 12 years.
Judith Pollock, owner of J&M Jewelry in Breckenridge, chalked up her holiday weekend success to the perfect scenario of the Fourth falling on a Friday, a robust schedule of local activities and there being just enough cloud cover to keep visitors in town and off the trails.
“I think this was the most fun Fourth of July I’ve experienced, and I’ve been here for 23 years,” Pollock said. “Sometimes after a parade people disappear, but there was enough going on to keep people in town.
“Everyone just seemed to be in a great mood. It seemed like there was a party happening around every corner.”
The town of Dillon also attracted record crowds by scheduling four straight days of concerts at the Dillon Amphitheater, said Dillon Business Association president Bill Falcone.
Although town officials were still crunching numbers on Tuesday, July 8, the amphitheater was at or near capacity all four nights, Falcone said, particularly for Sunday’s Dark Star Orchestra concert.
“It’s my understanding that this was the first time the amphitheater was activated for four straight days and I’ve heard from business owners they did see some increases in sales compared to previous years,” Falcone said. “I think there were more people in Dillon this weekend then we’ve seen for any other Fourth of July holiday.”
Officials and business owners in the towns of Frisco and Silverthorne echoed the sentiments of their counterparts around the county, saying nothing has yet been confirmed, but all signs point to record crowds and a sharp boost in revenues this holiday weekend.
But Summit County Sheriff John Minor noted this weekend’s congestion may also point to a shifting trend, saying in his dealings with local public officials many have said July is close to overtaking December as the year’s busiest month for tourism.
Bill Wishowski, vice president of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber and Breckenridge Central Reservations, said he’s not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon without looking at the complete scope of the summer and winter tourism seasons.
Wishowski said it would be difficult, for example, to compare winter and summer visitation rates considering the countless numbers of people from the Front Range who commute to Summit County to ski. Although skier visits could go up from year to year, that doesn’t necessarily mean more people are renting rooms or even staying long enough to purchase goods at local merchants or to dine at local restaurants.
However, looking solely at lodging occupancy, Wishowski said he’s beginning to see the same trend.
According to June 15 data, lodges managed by Breckenridge Central Reservations were forecasted to be at 90 percent of capacity for the Fourth of July weekend, Wishowski said.
Taking into account last-minute reservations, which have not yet been recorded, Wishowski said he would be surprised if lodging didn’t exceed 95 percent of capacity over the weekend. As of Tuesday, weekend occupancy was trending at better than 80 percent through the end of July.
Comparatively, Wishowski said December attracts big lodging numbers for 12 to 15 days out of the month.
“I would tend to want to agree with what other officials are saying, but there are a lot of other factors to consider,” Wishowski said.
“We focus on one thing and from an occupancy standpoint I would have to say July is beginning to look like it can match December.”