Art of the deal: Fairs stay put |

Art of the deal: Fairs stay put

BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to keep the popular but controversial summer art fairs on their traditional Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends and in the same downtown parking lot.The decision goes against the wishes of a protesting merchants group that had hoped for a compromise either on the dates or location.Art gallery owners and other merchants last week asked the council to either rescind art fairs organizer Mark Beling’s contract or ask Beling to move them to another date or location.”We’ve got two contracts signed,” said Mayor Ernie Blake. “To take the steps to alter this year’s (fairs) would open us up to potential legal jeopardy.”The art fairs are 20 year old and have periodically drawn fire from local merchants who say the events cost them money in what otherwise would be big weekends.Late last month, Breckenridge Art Gallery owner Gary Freese, on behalf of 32 other merchants, asked the town to reconsider allowing Beling to hold the fairs this year. His concern is that now that the traditional shoulder seasons do so well, the events should be moved farther out.The merchants want a say in the contract negotiations before Beling is allowed to host the events in 2006.To change the dates for the 2006 fairs will require the town council to notify Beling before July 4, 2005, he said. And even then, it could prove problematic.”To change the date is a sin – the worst sin you can do,” he said. “I’ve built business on those dates, and continue to build business. If the town doesn’t want them on those dates, someone else does.”Beling told the council that he has to prepare for each fair a year in advance by soliciting artists for the juried show.Most artisans plan their entire year around the various festivals throughout the nation and can’t easily change those plans.Town marketing director Kim DiLallo tried to contact the 32 people who sided with Freese to see if they would open their books and let the town see how badly they are affected on either of those weekends.Of the 32, all but four declined.Additionally, DiLallo said she has received more than 80 e-mails since Friday – all in favor of keeping the art fairs – from concerned artists and those who regularly make the trek to attend the fairs.Most recently, Freese’s argument against the fairs is that they attract too many people to town, thus straining the parking lots and clogging the streets. Some of the merchants in opposition to the event said some of their customers have even said they won’t return on those weekends because it’s too crowded.”The whole idea of special events is to bring people to town who have never been here,” Beling said. “If it benefits the town, it’s always a plus.”He also questioned the precedent such groups could set with other special events.”If you start cutting into special events, where’s it going to stop?” Beling said. “Is someone going to complain because the snowsculpting takes up 30 parking spaces for two weeks? It’s got to stop somewhere.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228 or

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