Basalt tries new summer events strategy
BASALT – Basalt is changing strategy this summer to try to generate business and a buzz about the town.
River Days has been scrapped and the town won’t offer to feed the valley for free. Instead it’s focused on hosting regular events to try to keep people coming back for more.
Bennett Bramson, president of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, is well aware that many people feel Basalt isn’t as happening of a place as Carbondale.
“We’re trying out there,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”
A special events committee called Basalt Arts and Social Happenings, or BASH, planned this summer’s lineup. In a nod to the success of Carbondale’s First Fridays – where people bar hop, hobnob with friends and check out shops and galleries – Basalt is starting “Saturday Live in Basalt.” Special events will be held on the second Saturday of the month, June through September.
The first Saturday event will be a downtown block party with live music, a beer garden, sidewalk sales and restaurant booths. The event will last from 3 to 9 p.m. with Midland Avenue closed to traffic. A mariachi band will march through town and a stage will be set up on Midland Avenue.
There won’t be a hog roast or free food from vendors like in the summer kick-off parties of years past. “Five thousand people from all around the valley came and ate food for free, then left,” Bramson said.
River Days won’t be on the calendar, either. The event, and its predecessors, were a focal point of Basalt’s summer for well over a decade.
Saturday, July 9 will feature a party following the Aspen Valley Marathon, which will end in Basalt. The party starts at 10 a.m. Jayne Gottlieb will present one of her acclaimed plays in Lions Park at 7 that night.
Special events are in the works for the second Saturdays of Aug. 13 and Sept. 10. One new twist to Basalt’s summers will be a movie night in Lions Park. Outdoor shows will be shown on the second Saturdays in July, August and September, and maybe more often. Ice cream will be available along with free popcorn.
Other standing events include the Summer Concert Series on Wednesday nights starting June 15. The successful Sunday Farmers’ Market returns June 19.
A hub of activity in Basalt this summer will be a new stage being erected in the east end of Lions Park, toward the recycling center. The town is providing the materials and contracted with Habitat for Humanity to build the structure. Gottlieb’s plans will be presented there, as will some of the Wednesday concerts. The stage will also be available to be booked for events. The lawn immediately in front of the stage can hold in excess of an estimated 300 people.
While a lot of events are targeted for midvalley residents, the chamber of commerce is also trying to attract people from out of town. The chamber’s marketing committee approved a $10,000 expenditure in mid-May for cable TV commercials that will play on various channels, like ESPN and Discovery, in areas of the Front Range. The 30-second commercials will be aimed at fishermen and families. Some radio advertising will also be purchased for use in Western Colorado markets. The chamber and town are also teaming to improve directional signs to guide travelers to Basalt. The Colorado Department of Transportation has expressed a commitment to help, according to Bramson.
The goal is to help motorists find the town’s core easier. “We send them on very circuitous routes for something that should be very simple,” Bramson said.
The proposed solution is to post “Historic Downtown Basalt” signs at the east and west ends of Two Rivers Road with the intersection of Highway 82 and at the main intersection of the highway and Basalt Avenue. The east end of Two Rivers Road will get a sign that says Basalt is 2 miles away so visiting motorists know they just have a short distance to go, Bramson said.
At least some of the signs are supposed to be erected by August. Bramson said he wishes it was sooner but working through the process with CDOT requires time.
The chamber is spending $3,000 on BASH events and $4,000 on signs in addition to the $10,000 for TV and radio ads.
The town government committed $8,000 on signs and $7,000 to events as well as funding construction of the stage.
Bramson said he is urging Basalt and midvalley residents to get involved by volunteering time to help plan and put on events rather than relying on the chamber or town. Basalt’s vitality and vibrancy will only improve through more people getting involved, he said.
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