Breckenridge prepares to form a long-term philosophy around events

Community members gather for Breckenridge's Oktoberfest in 2018. Oktoberfest was originally planned as a way to bring business to the town during mud season, but year-round events contributed to the feeling of pre-pandemic event fatigue.
Photo by Louie Traub / Breckenridge Tourism Office

The Breckenridge Town Council continued its conversation about how to organize events moving forward at the council’s work session Tuesday, Feb. 9, determining the types of data that should be gathered on resident preferences before a plan is made.

The conversation was originally kicked off during the Jan. 12 council work session, and reporting of the initial discussion received an outpour of mixed community feedback.

Council members discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on community mindset, noting that while residents were frustrated with the number of events in town before the pandemic, they might be more interested in the idea of events after months of being told to stay home. Council agreed to use survey data on resident sentiment pre-pandemic to guide decisions on future events.

Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes asked the council to give direction on what type of data and information they would want to have at hand before they discussed their philosophy on post-pandemic events at a lengthier special work session. Breckenridge Tourism Office President Lucy Kay explained that the way the tourism office and the Breckenridge Events Committee currently look at events is by categorizing them by their goals: branding or media attention, community goodwill and to build business during periods of need like the shoulder season.

A chart shows Breckenridge's matrix for events, categorizing annual events by their primary and secondary goals.
Photo from Feb. 9 Breckenridge Town Council work session packet.

Council member Kelly Owens asked if residents view events that occur in certain areas of town differently, such as an event that occurs within Main Street Station versus one that occurs on Main Street near the Riverwalk Center. She noted that there seems to be less opposition from locals to events confined to Main Street Station.

Council member Dick Carleton said the one exception is in the case of alcohol-related events, as even if the event is confined to the station, there is an impact as eventgoers pour into town afterward. He added that it would be helpful to compile data on all of the events that go on in town to evaluate their impact. Carleton said this evaluation should include major art installations, nonprofit fundraisers, athletic events and events that don’t take place in the center of town but still affect the town, like events at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Carleton also suggested that the town rethink the events committee as it is currently made up of organizations and businesses like Breckenridge Grand Vacations, Beaver Run Resort and the Breckenridge Arts Coalition.

“I look at the events committee — it’s really functioning well, we’ve got an incredible group of events people on it and driving it — but have we outgrown it?” Carleton said. “Is it time to have that committee function a little differently and bring in some nonevents people to participate and more community people to participate and bring the voice of the community to that table? I think it would be a good give and take for both groups. I think so often in the community we get frustrated and people express concern about events, but they don’t necessarily know the bigger picture and vice versa.”

Mayor Eric Mamula voiced concerns about event plans for when gatherings are considered safe.

“I have a real fear that when October comes this year, everybody is going to try to jam in every event that they have not been able to do,” Mamula said. “So, we need a master list of everything that’s going on so that everybody’s not tripping over each other and this is all for naught then, because everybody’s trying to make up on fundraising and sports and everything all at once. It’s important to get that matrix of every single thing that goes on for the larger events discussion, but also just coming out of the gate.”

Council member Carol Saade said the town needs to also map out the financial and economic impact of events, including event production. She said that local event producers should be prioritized, as opposed to third party producers, so money could stay in the community.

“What can we enforce? Whether in guidelines, requirements, some sort of management of the events, it would be great to know sustainability (wise), what can we do there?” Saade said. “Are there any inclusivity guidelines? … Events can be a tool. How can we use events as a tool to advance town values and also a tool for the mechanics of crowd dispersion?”

Council member Erin Gigliello said she’d like to learn more about which events locals embrace. Mamula said the town should look at tweaking the operational aspect of some events, such as Oktoberfest, to make them more enjoyable and less of a nuisance to locals. Gigliello noted also that pre-pandemic data might be more accurate as people are currently eager for any sense of normalcy.

“One of my worries right now is if we survey a ton of stuff right now, people feel like, ‘Well, we haven’t been doing anything, maybe we should start doing stuff,'” Mamula said. “I’d really like to look at the stuff that Lucy offered up that was pre-COVID when people were really feeling event fatigue.”

As a next step, Haynes suggested that staff pull together some information council members requested along with the Destination Management Plan resident survey and other tourism office survey data that was conducted around 2018, before the pandemic. Then the council can come up with a short-term plan as well as a long-term philosophy on events. Town spokesperson Haley Littleton added in an email on Thursday, Feb. 11, that the town may decide to conduct a new survey at some point, but for now will utilize this older survey data.

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