When the music’s over …
BRECKENRIDGE – The first few years the Blue River Series brought popular rock, folk and blues musicians to Breckenridge, it was financially successful. Then free music flooded Summit County, and the Blue River Series began to sink.Last year, attendance at the Blue River Series – which is the rockin’ portion of the otherwise predominantly classical Breckenridge Music Festival – dropped by 48 percent compared to 2002, when free music wasn’t the norm in Summit County. So to keep its head above water, Jeff Baum, the festival’s executive director, devised a new plan.He applied for a grant from the town of Breckenridge to produce the Blue River Series as a set of free street concerts on Ridge Street, rather than ticketed shows at the Riverwalk Center.But the town denied his request for a couple of reasons.First, the town supports the Breckenridge Music Festival by providing the Riverwalk Center as a setting for shows, and the grant-funding committee wanted the Blue River Series to stay in the facility, instead of moving to Ridge Street.If he moved to the street, Baum wanted to sell beer to help pay for the bands. Liquor proceeds at the Riverwalk Center benefit the concessionaire and the town; they don’t fund the music festival. Baum also wanted to use sponsorships to pay for the concerts, and said he has run into problems where the Riverwalk Center concessionaire didn’t serve the potential sponsor’s beer – such as Breckenridge Brewery.Second, grant money to support the Breckenridge Music Festival stems from the town’s marketing fund, which comes from business license taxes and a portion of sales and accommodations taxes. Baum requested $53,000 more than last year, mostly to support the free concert series, but the town didn’t have the increase in the budget, said Kim DiLallo, Breckenridge events and communications manager.
“The council didn’t have discretionary money to fund new projects,” DiLallo said. DiLallo said creating free street concerts was a large undertaking, and she wasn’t convinced they would yield a return on investment.”Personally, I felt like we were following other communities, and I didn’t think we necessarily needed to do that,” she said. “We’ve got our own unique personality, and I didn’t think we need to be like everyone else and follow other people’s leads (in offering free big-name acts).”The Blue River Series did take a hit last summer, when crowds frequented free concerts at Copper Mountain, Keystone Resort, Frisco and Dillon. The Series began experiencing a drop in attendance – despite presenting the same level of talent – in 2003, when Copper started its free music series, Baum said.”Breckenridge would be much better served by presenting its free concerts and keeping its residents and visitors here,” Baum said. “The reason that the Blue River Series was expanded four years ago was to provide the entertainment for the demographic of people that weren’t getting served by the classical programs. We were doing it as a service to the community, and it drew people to Breckenridge and provided an economic stimulus.”DiLallo says she still wants to make the partnership between the town and the Blue River Series work in the future, and Baum is still looking at ways to bring bands to Breckenridge without large financial risks. He would not comment on specific plans.As for the Blue River Series, Baum is temporarily shelving the idea and taking a wait-and-see approach to see if the market changes, specifically in regards to offering free music.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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