The cost of the holidays in Summit
November 29, 2011
Driving into Breckenridge, it’s hard to ignore the festive lights and garlands lining Main Street. They cost the town about $2,800 a year, plus $5,000 more in labor.
The costs are a worthwhile investment, and fairly minimal compared to other municipalities, especially considering the garlands, bows and lights are re-used (they have a 10-year life span, and since they weren’t all purchased at the same time, some are re-purchased every year), Kim Dykstra-DiLallo, director of communications for the town said. She thinks it’s something both guests and visitors expect, and not only do they give the town a “magical” feeling, but help promote shopping in town.
“It’s important to make our town look welcoming and hospitable,” Dykstra-DiLallo said.
The only holiday-themed events put on by the Breckenridge Resort Chamber are the Lighting of Breckenridge and Race of the Santas, which both occur on Dec. 3. The lighting is free to the public; combined the two events cost the town about $8,000. Most of that is the tree lighting in the Blue River Plaza, and the hiring of a Santa Claus, according to BRC events director Sandy Metzger.
The hope is that event attendees will then shop and dine at local businesses, Metzger said. The lighting, which has been put on for more than 10 years, usually attracts about 500 – 1,000 visitors.
Over in Frisco, the thinking is the same for the week-long Wassail Days, which kicks off Dec. 3. The event eats into most of the town’s $12,000 holiday event budget, but usually draws about 5,000 people.
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Frisco’s invested $25,000 in decorations last year, so this year, there’s only minimal costs in replacing lights, Suzanne Lifgren, the town’s marketing director said. The town rents special equipment to hang decorations, which costs about $4,000, plus labor from the Frisco public works department.
Representatives from both towns said it’s hard to say what pays off for them or not, since they receive monthly sales tax reports from businesses and don’t know where losses or increases in funds relate to.
In the restaurant business, it’s really not the cost of decorations – which are usually fairly minimal – or a matter of extra staffing – since it’s already at a maximum during the winter season – but a monetary and time commitment to holiday happenings within the community, according to Ken Nelson, president of the Breckenridge Restaurant Association and owner of Briar Rose. That could be anything from donating hot chocolate to carolers, or staff time to a town event. And while it involves some extra effort, it’s a good thing, Nelson said. It’s an opportunity to participate in the community, and help make it more animated, he said.
“The holiday period in Breckenridge generates the most revenue of any period during the year, and lodging companies make sure our guests get what they pay for,” Toby Babich, president of the Breckenridge Lodging Association said. “Many companies do invest in decorations of their properties and units, as well as offering special guest services for the holidays. The goal is to make sure when visitors come here for the holidays, they leave never wanting to be anywhere else for their holiday.”
Events like the town lighting, or the Breckenridge Retail Merchants Holiday Window Contest “work in cadence” with lodging efforts to give guests what they pay for: a “true holiday experience,” Babich said.
Of course, as the sidewalks get busier, so do Summit County’s emergency responders. The Summit County Ambulance Service ups the number of ambulances it has out, starting around the first weekend of December. They always have three 24-hour ambulances on duty, but will add up to three more during the holiday season depending on the time of week and event, according to emergency services director Marc Burdick. With staffing, fuel and equipment, an ambulance costs close to $100 an hour on duty.
At the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, a typical night calls for two deputies and a sergeant, while on a night like New Year’s Eve – which falls on a Saturday this year – demands 10 -15 deputies, two or three sergeants and command staff, Sheriff John Minor said. The department tries its best to rely on flextime, but occasionally, some overtime is incurred.