What do outside events really do for town?
By Mark Reaman
The fourth annual ARTumn Festival permit application earlier this summer again brought forth Crested Butte Town Council discussion about not approving the event. The festival is put on in September by a Front Range group and almost every year there is discussion about its value to town and whether to allow it.
The event consists primarily of out-of-town artists who set up their tents at the top end of Elk Avenue. It does not appear to be a big draw for new tourists to town like the Crested Butte Arts Festival in August. So it chafes at some council members every year.
“Does it bring tourists to town? Does it hurt our local art scene?” asked councilman Chris Haver. “It is important for us, as we grow, to ask whether we are a venue for outside events that aren’t necessarily for the locals in town. Or do we want to focus on events that have local ties? I’m not trying to deny this, but do we want to just be a venue for outside events?”
“I understand what you are saying,” said councilwoman Laura Mitchell.
“The Arts Festival brings in probably 75 percent of their artists from outside the valley but I agree this is different,” said mayor Jim Schmidt.
“It may be worth looking at down the road,” said Haver. “Who can rent out Elk Avenue for events? Is there really any rent? I just wanted to bring it up.”
“Let’s measure the burden on town through things like public works and what we get back as benefits through things like sales tax this year,” suggested Mitchell.
“There is no reason we have to approve it this year. It is on our property and we have the right to grant the permit or not. It is still several months out,” said Schmidt.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” countered councilman Kent Cowherd. “It brings in some economy for that weekend. It gives people here something else to do. I haven’t heard a lot of negative pushback from other businesses or neighbors.”
Local resident Harry Woods agreed with Haver. “Over the years I have heard lots of locals get upset when Elk Avenue is closed for any reason,” he said. “I don’t believe this event brings people to town. The quality of art, in my mind, is not the level of art we produce in our town. I don’t want to deny it but I agree it is one of those things to review and see if it really is the best for us.”
“I will vote for it this year but want more discussion on it and probably won’t be in favor of it next year,” said Haver. “We need to start thinking about the criteria for our events.”
“Let’s look at it closer this year,” suggested Cowherd.
The council voted 5-1 to approve the 2018 permit, with Schmidt voting against it.