Summit County businesses look at big picture during Ullr Fest
January 1, 2013
The town of Breckenridge is busy preparing for its 50th year of Ullr Fest, starting Sunday. The weeklong festival sweeps through town every year, drawing crowds with its events, contests and parade down Main Street. Its impact on the local businesses in town, however, is less about money and more about town culture and atmosphere.
“The restaurants usually benefit the greatest, although the retail merchant sector is the largest base of business,” said Sheri Shelton, owner of the Hand and Glove store on Main Street. “My shop does OK with it. It’s kind of a mixed bag.”
One thing that can be said for Ullr Fest is that it brings in the crowds, though they may or not be shopping at local businesses.
“I definitely see the impact,” said Bryan Etkie, supervisor at the Breckenridge Welcome Center. “A lot of people come out every year around that time. A lot of people come through and as soon as they experience it they come back.”
Etkie said that about half of those visiting the welcome center are aware of the festival, while the other half are surprised and learning about it for the first time. Some have come specifically for Ullr Fest.
“I remember this group of nine ladies from Texas that (said they) have been coming every year for nine years,” Etkie said. “It’s growing in popularity.”
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At Holly’s Pizzazz Boutique, the business doesn’t necessarily pick up, but people do come in, mostly to buy Ullr hats.
“I don’t think it does (pick up) except for (that) we do sell the Ullr helmets,” said Sally Ensign, a tailor who works out of the boutique. “People do run in on the day of the parade yelling ‘I need horns! I need horns!’ which is great.”
Steve Lapinsohn, who owns three stores – Main Street Outlet, Columbia Breckenridge and The Northface Breckenridge – with his wife, Susan, prefers to look at the big picture when it comes to the festival.
“I think, in general, any event helps our business,” Lapinsohn said. “I think that any event that we have … brings people to town and gives them a good feeling about what Breckenridge is, and brings them back.”
“You have to have events to bring people to town and to show the town off internationally,” she said. “It brings a nice culture to Breckenridge and people remember how fun and really different Breckenridge is and that’s really good too. We don’t try to be Vail and … we don’t want to be Aspen. We want a few distinctive events that really say ‘Breckenridge.'”