Summit County residents are dealing with event fatigue, and their local governments are listening
FRISCO — Events are a fun way to bring together a community, but in towns where the local economy revolves around tourism, residents can become fatigued by the constant barrage of marketing, activities and crowds.
This is an especially fine line in Summit County, which attracts visitors from across the world as well as the nearby Front Range. In addition to spending money at the events, visitors also support other local businesses such as restaurants, breweries and lodging establishments.
Successful events equal an increasingly successful local economy, but when too many events overwhelm Summit County, resident become disgruntled by road closures, overcrowding, traffic, noise and an overall disturbance of the mountain lifestyle.
Town of Breckenridge public information officer Haley Littleton said the town conducted an expectation survey in 2017, when residents were asked about events, town business and other related topics.
“Generally, what we found was that people indicted a positive response to our current events but didn’t express a desire for more,” Littleton said.
Bringing things up to the present, Littleton said Breckenridge has had to say “no” to events that didn’t serve the community or would overwhelm the town. For example, Breckenridge did not participate in the Colorado Classic cycling race this year and declined to host the Spartan Races.
Littleton said the town works to continuously be in touch with residents, who are encouraged to come to town council meetings and voice their opinions during the public comment period. Littleton also mentioned that the town is working on a residential newsletter to increase communication about events, including road closures, parking and other impacts.
Town staff coordinates with the Breckenridge Events Committee, and the two organizations work together to make sure there are not too many events at one time and to mitigate the effects of the events that are held.
“Our focus is on managing the impact, like traffic and road closures and parking, to make everything run as smoothly as possible,” Littleton said.
The town of Frisco also is working through solutions to address event fatigue. Frisco director of marketing and communications Vanessa Agee used to work for the town of Breckenridge and has experience with the problem of too much tourism.
Agee stressed the importance of having the courage to say “no” to events that aren’t going to be beneficial for the town and its community members.
“You have to critically and regularly evaluate whether an event is serving the community, and you need to not be afraid of getting rid of an event that’s not serving the community,” Agee said.
She gave the example of the Santa Dash, which used to be held on Frisco’s Main Street. Many residents felt the event wasn’t worth the inconvenience of the closed road.
“You have to be strategic around road closures,” Agee said.
While local economic development is important, Agee stressed the necessity of having events that are specifically geared toward residents, saying community and culture should be considered in addition to economics.
“You need to make sure that you do events that focus squarely on the community and are focused on quality of life rather than economic development,” Agee said.
The process of evaluating events takes creativity and communication to understand what the community does and doesn’t want, she said.
“It’s also really important to communicate why we have events and to be honest about who will benefit from these events and who won’t,” Agee said.
She said towns should look at an event honestly to determine whether it’s for visitors or to attract media coverage. While that’s OK sometimes, she said, balance is key.
As part of this process, Frisco is working to better communicate with community members.
At the Frisco Town Council’s work session Tuesday, Aug. 27, members of the community are encouraged to join the Fourth of July recap discussion, which is intended to create an open dialogue about what residents did and didn’t enjoy about this year’s parade on Main Street and to propose changes for next year.
Another facet of communication surrounding events, Agee said, is strategizing with neighboring towns so events don’t fall on the same days, which can overwhelm the area.
Other event managers in the county have a similar philosophy.
“Our event team, we reach out to all of the other area events — and especially with Breckenridge Beer Festival — we make sure there aren’t any events on that side of the county,” said Miranda Fisher, General Manager of Always Mountain Time, which organizes and manages events across the county.
Over in Dillon, marketing and events director Kerstin Anderson said the town isn’t focused on the issue of event fatigue.
“The town of Dillon is in a different lifecycle as it pertains to events and event fatigue, so we aren’t seeing as long of a season or as much traffic across the year,” Anderson said, comparing Dillon to other towns in Summit County.
The town’s major event venue, the Dillon Amphitheater, traditionally has hosted free weekend concerts all summer. Now, some paid, midweek concerts have been introduced, totaling 33 shows throughout the summer.
Anderson said the town has tried to be strategic with scheduling by limiting the number of paid concerts.
“We’ve been mindful of limiting the number of those to avoid fatigue to our neighbors and our small staff,” Anderson said.
The town of Silverthorne is focused primarily on its monthly First Fridays community events, which town marketing and culture manager Blair McGary nurtured.
Starting with the 2017 opening of the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, the town is embracing arts and culture.
“When we went out to do our Arts and Culture Strategic Plan, our community members said, ‘We just want a place to intersect with our neighbors,’” McGary said.
The idea of First Fridays, she said, was to be a low-key event that locals could stop by to hang out and visit with neighbors.
The community-oriented event has food and drinks served by local establishments, live music, quirky traditions and kid-friendly activities, which allows parents to relax together while their kids are entertained.
“If visitors come, we’re thrilled with that, but we want to keep it authentic,” McGary said.
Though Silverthorne and Dillon are not overwhelmed by events, the towns don’t plan to add more.
“While we’re always open for good opportunities, we aren’t seeking to actively grow our event season,” Anderson said.
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