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CB council overturns staff to allow jazz fest in town park this fall

Let’s see how it goes this year

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council on Monday overturned a staff decision that will allow a fledging jazz festival to use the town youth soccer field for its event this September.

The Colorado Jazz Musicians Festival will be able to hold its outdoor concert at the Alpenglow stage September 8-9 with the audience in the field that is set up for six soccer fields for kids eight and under in the fall. The council majority felt it appropriate to give the new festival being organized by Laura Silva and Roger Kahn an opportunity to succeed at the site and told the town staff to make the time to restripe and organize the fields after the event for the following Monday.

Parks and recreation director Janna Hansen told the council that space is not usually available for such events after August 20 and suggested the organizers utilize another date or consider using the Big Mine Ice Arena. She said the staff is normally stretched thin at that time of year, the possibility of bad weather could damage the fields and previous special events held at the site in that time period put a heavy burden on staff.

Silva appealed the staff decision to the council and argued that a festival that brings in 1,000 to 1,500 that weekend in September would “beef up the lodging and restaurants in town. We are targeting a niche crowd of 40- to 80-year-old jazz aficionados from the Front Range who would be here all weekend adding to the town’s tax revenue,” she explained. “We have artists lined up and part of the appeal is the views from the field. Big Mine doesn’t provide that and limits us to 400 people. We feel this is a multi-use space that can be used during an under-utilized weekend. It seems like that space would benefit the whole community.”

Hansen said the staff understood the difficult situation but reminded the council, “We are a small community with small space venues, especially after school starts. We have turned down similar requests in the past so there is a concern this would set a precedent and continue year after year. The town is fielding more and more special event requests than ever. We need to adhere to the guidelines to effectively manage the limited resources.”

Town manager Dara MacDonald said the town staff could accommodate the request if the council wanted. “The larger concern for us is simply shifting the priorities. We can open it up as a venue if that’s the priority.”

Councilman Jackson Petito said he loved the idea of the festival. “It seems the logistics can be worked out but I’m not sure how to address the precedent issue. I’d love to find a way to make this work.”

“I like and support locally grown events like this, as opposed to an outside festival like the comedy fest that was proposed,” said councilmember Chris Haver. “I get the headache of restriping and organizing the fields but I too want to find a way to make this work. It’s a slower time of summer. Do we need something happening there every weekend? No.”

“I like the idea too,” added councilwoman Laura Mitchell. “It sounds like the biggest risk is the field getting trashed, especially if the weather is bad. I suppose if it gets trashed, that sets the precedent and it won’t happen next year.”

Councilman Kent Cowherd said he was sympathetic to the event, “but I would prefer to stick with the staff recommendation and have the event at Big Mine this year.”

Kahn said the weekend day events would start at 11 a.m. and be done by 4 p.m. “The festival is targeting Colorado jazz musicians and we think we will get a good audience from the Front Range who are excited to come and visit Crested Butte.”

“The town has changed a little lately and I think it is worth giving this a shot,” said councilman Paul Merck. “It is not a major conflict since no actual soccer is scheduled for the weekend. I hope it is not a major burden to the town to do this. We need to look and see how it works this year and make a decision for the future based on that.”

“This is another reason we need fields outside of town as we grow,” said mayor Jim Schmidt. “That goes to proposals like Brush Creek.”

Former councilmember Roland Mason reminded the council that voters passed a tax two years ago specifically to fund parks and recreation in Crested Butte.

The council voted 6-1, with Cowherd dissenting, to overturn the staff decision and allow the event to be held on the site.

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