Aspen mulls the $200K big idea | AspenTimes.com

Aspen mulls the $200K big idea

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen’s “mining for ideas” initiative, in which an individual’s proposed special event or tourism-driven concept is awarded public money, has been narrowed down to about a dozen.The $200,000 effort is designed around the notion that a new event will attract tourists and boost the local economy, while possibly even creating repeat business from those who come to Aspen for the first time, fall in love with the resort and want to return either for vacation or permanently.”This is about creating a sustainable resort economy and the idea is long term, not short term,” said Mayor Mick Ireland. “Our money is about special events and the community should be involved and come forward with ideas about how to attract people to town.”Champions of each idea last week pitched their ideas to a committee that will recommend one or more to the Aspen City Council in January based on a set of established criteria. Committee members, who are representatives from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the city of Aspen, the council and the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission, spent last Thursday and Friday listening to hours of sales pitches.About 30 ideas were submitted on the city’s website and were then whittled down to the ones that were most viable, said Nancy Lesley, the city’s special events director. (See below.)The pursuit of the $200,000 that the council decided earlier this year to set aside as an “economic stimulus” has become a political money grab of sorts. Marketing experts and passionate promoters have been jockeying in front of the council since the money was appropriated.That’s partly why the council formed the committee, but even its members have a stake in the game.ACRA, which has suggested it receive the money so whatever effort can be parlayed into its larger marketing plan, has two members on the committee. ACRA also is pitching a holiday crafts fair.”Fundamentally, I believe putting it with a bigger plan to get heads in beds is best,” said ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun, who added an event can be promoted through the chamber’s e-mail blasts, website, public relations and other marketing efforts. “Anything they can do we could help them do better.”The city has two representatives including Lesley, who is pitching two special event concepts. The CCLC has one member and there are two council representatives.Lesley said ultimately the committee will pick the best idea that achieves the desired end result – attracting tourists.”I want what’s good for Aspen,” she said. “It’s what’s best for the community and we have to be smart about it … We all want to see Aspen back on its feet.”Ireland said some key events that have put Aspen on the map and have been a huge draw for out-of-towners received start-up money from the city in their formative years. One example is the Food & Wine Classic at Aspen, which is held in June and draws thousands of foodies, famous chefs and those in the industry.The city initially gave the event’s visionaries $5,000.”A lot of this stuff doesn’t require a lot of money … it’s about cultivating an idea,” he said. “It’s seed money that gets sprinkled around and we’ll see what sprouts up.”My theory is you have to plant a lot of seeds to see which ones come up and which ones wither.”csack@aspentimes.com

ASPEN – A local committee is reviewing proposals from individuals that are designed to attract tourists to town. The winner will receive all or a portion of the city of Aspen’s $200,000, which was set aside specifically for the effort.Here is a rundown of new ideas or existing special events looking for monetary support, according to the city’s special events director, Nancy Lesley, who also is a committee member. Some concepts have detailed descriptions and others don’t, based on information available.• Live the Dream – Casey McConnell, CEO of Qittle, a mobile marketing company, is organizing a global contest in which an individual will be selected to live in Aspen for a year with all expenses paid. In return, that person will work for Qittle hosting a weekly radio/TV show that will air locally and also will be responsible for his or her own blog, where they will share their experience in Aspen and Snowmass with the world.• Lacrosse tournament – The weekend tournament was first held last May. It attracts about 35 teams, 25 of which are from out of town. There are between 20 and 30 kids per team. It’s expected their families will travel with them and stay for at least two nights.• Singles event – Could be modeled after Gay Ski Week.• Fashion Week – Currently held in March, the destination event is a ski and outerwear fashion show that draws industry people and sponsors.• Taste of Aspen – Formerly held on the streets of downtown, the event would allow restaurants to serve up their best dishes under individual tents.• Bonspeil – Pitched by the city of Aspen, the event would be a curling tournament held the weekend after Labor Day. Curling clubs apparently have a loyal following and teams would travel from across the country to Aspen.• Winter family weekend – Another city of Aspen event, it would be held the weekend before the Winter X Games, highlighting activities around Aspen that are family friendly such as ice skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. It would be marketed around the region and state.• Car collector auction – Car aficionados would travel from around the country to Aspen for a car show.• Winterskl – A long-standing Aspen tradition in January that celebrates winter and is organized by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA). The chamber would like to increase the funding to do more with the event.• Craft and holiday fair – Pitched by Shelly Hamill; it could be similar to an arts and crafts fair held in Wagner Park in the fall.• Singer/songwriter festival – Struggling and established artists would come to Aspen for an outdoor festival. Characterized as a grassroots-level “Austin City Lights.”• Barbecue contest – Close some downtown streets in August and have a large scale barbecue cooking and tasting event.• Ecofest – A blend of lifestyle, business and environmental leaders converging in one place for a weekend in April to display fresh sustainable products and services.• An Aspen Skiing Co. event that was not formulated by the time this story went to press.

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