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Crested Butte Comedy Fest could happen next summer

Nationally televised specials, 3,000 visitors a day, painting the streets with laughter

By Aimee Eaton

The Valley may soon add one more festival to an already full roster that includes the Crested Butte Arts Festival, the Crested Butte Music Festival, Crested Butte Bike Week, the Wildflower Festival, and the Mt. Crested Butte Chili and Beer Festival—to name only a few.

The potential new contender on the circuit, the Crested Butte Comedy Festival, would annually bring some of the biggest names in comedy to the Gunnison/Crested Butte area for four days in mid-June. Think names like Chris Rock, Margaret Cho, and Kevin Nealon.

“The vision is to create a Sundance for comedy here in Crested Butte and Gunnison,” said Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick during a briefing given to the council members during last week’s council meeting. “It would be an ongoing four-day festival, Thursday to Sunday, that would happen annually and would use sites all over the county including the I-Bar, the ice arena, the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gothic, and smaller sites like Bonez.”

Fitzpatrick said the Comedy Festival organizers are heavily tied into major network television stations such as HBO and Showtime. He said one of the producers’ primary goals of the festival would be to create several television specials to be aired nationally, showing not only the comedy acts, but also the culture and geography of the Gunnison Valley.

One of the festival’s organizers, Dan Forbes, spoke to Fitzpatrick and other leaders from the community at a small gathering hosted by the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association last week. Forbes has more than 20 years of experience producing music and comedy specials, and was behind shows such as Garth in Central Park and Whitney Houston live from South Africa.

According to Fitzpatrick, Forbes and the other organizers anticipate the festival bringing 2,500 to 3,000 unique attendees into the area each day.

“The idea is to start the event with a celebrity golf tournament; it would be a foursome plus one celebrity. Then they would put together other packages that would include things like tickets to a show, plus other activities and lodging,” said Fitzpatrick. “They’re considering a free music concert outdoors with a little comedy thrown in to entice people.”

The festival organizers have already decided on a date to kick off the first event: June 18, 2018. Fitzpatrick told the council that it was a tight timeline but he felt confident in Forbes’ and the other organizers’ experience and believed with “every confidence in the world that they can pull this off.”

“The key thing for you to know is, they don’t need any funding,” said Fitzpatrick. “They are not asking the town for one penny. What they’re looking for is support from the council for the concept of the event so they can take that to places like Showtime in the television world as they issue pitches.”

Then Fitzpatrick posed a question to the council: Is this something Mt. Crested Butte would support?

“It’s a good time of year for something,” responded councilperson Janet Farmer.

“It’s generally a slow time up here; it’s Father’s Day weekend, there could still be snow on the ground,” added Mt. Crested Butte mayor Todd Barnes. “The major concern is the exposure to be had. Have we had enough? Is this the kind of exposure we want? I’m fine with it. Why not? They’re going to get beds up here.”

Farmer then asked Fitzpatrick if he saw any downside to the festival and if the airport would be open and able to provide service for attendees.

“I do not [see a downside],” Fitzpatrick replied. “I think their focus is going to be a lot on Colorado; it’s a drive market.”

With that, the council agreed unanimously to lend their support to the festival organizers.

“I think it’s an interesting concept to see,” said Barnes in closing. “What could it hurt?”

The Mt. CB council will discuss writing a formal letter of support for the comedy festival at its August 1 meeting.

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