Roger Marolt
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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February 19, 2013
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Roger Marolt: Who cares if the chili and brew festival becomes a mammoth-sized event?

The city of Aspen is going to thank us. We just moved one of our marque summer events three miles closer to its downtown. Like most everything that we stage down there away from the heart of our village, it will be a good selling point for them.

The main reason for the move is to allow the event to grow, which will benefit Aspen while keeping Snowmass Village quiet. I can see where the organizers are going with this. The Snowmass Mammoth Festival, formerly known as the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest, is following a similar career path as the soon to be Jazz Aspen, formerly known as Jazz Aspen Snowmass.

The big fall music festival sprouted its roots at the Snowmass Village rodeo grounds about 20 years ago, grew to a larger location up on the side of Snowmass ski area, grew even more and moved back down to the current Town Park location, and is now eyeing further growth that will take it to an exclusively Aspen location.

The Mammoth Festival (does anyone even remember the connection between Snowmass Village and a mammoth?) is on a similar track. What is good for the festival's promoters is good for Aspen.

I am old enough to remember the reason the original Chili Pepper and Brew Fest happened. It was to help drum up a little summer business for shops and restaurants on the Snowmass Village Mall. That's it. Now that it's proven successful, we want to move it to a part of town that everybody goes through on their way to Aspen and where vendors from all over the state can set up booths. It makes no sense. Nobody is going to be shopping in the Village while the event is happening, and I'm sure we will work with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to make sure everyone can return to Aspen as quickly and conveniently as possible afterwards.

There is little doubt the event can be more successful by moving to a place where it can expand. But, when did that become the goal? The purpose of the event was to make more money for local merchants, not promoters and event organizers.

Everyone involved with approving the move seems to be saying the same thing: The event has outgrown its current location. It's a bit like Yogi Berra describing a popular restaurant by saying, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

They say that the event is bursting at the seams and that the quality of the experience is diminished for people attending the event. Really? Then why are so many people attending? If this event is designed to help Snowmass Village businesses, shouldn't we wait to pull the plug on the current location until business owners complain that it has gotten too big, that their experience with it is diminished, and that they want to see it moved?

Snowmass Village spends so much time and energy trying to establish its own identity. Why do we now, once again, simultaneously establish ourselves as Aspen's auxiliary staging area where "B" events can grow into main attractions and then head into the city?

Like the old Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival on the top of Fanny Hill, the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest actually brings people into the heart of Snowmass Village, such as it is. About the only other attractions that can claim to do the same thing are the free Thursday night concerts in the summer and our ski area during the winter.

The chili and brew festival has been good for Snowmass Village, even if it hasn't yet lived up to its full potential for promoters. If we are looking for gigantic events to help alleviate the summer doldrums here in the Village, we are bound to be moribund forever in promoting our most pleasant season. As long as I've lived here, it seems we have searched for the one big thing that can help us turn the corner and become a legitimate year-round resort. That one thing is yet elusive.

Perhaps we could learn something really important from the star whose light obscures our own identity. Yes, it was the 1950 World Ski Championships that put Aspen on the maps of destination-resort seekers. But, contrary to what we seem to think, it is a zillion little things that make it so undyingly stunning and attractive to visitors. We in the Village are getting used to growing and transplanting attractions while Aspen nurtures them. It's not the size that matters; it's the numbers of them. A day with one big event is exhausting. A day with a hundred diversions is stimulating.

Snowmass Village was put on the map by Aspen. We are not obligated to pay them back forever. We need to keep the little things here.

Roger Marolt thinks the chili and brew festival could reach its full potential in Aspen's Rio Grande Park, but he doesn't think it should. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 19, 2013 03:53PM Published Feb 19, 2013 03:52PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.