Comedy Fest’s timing a little off?
If timing is everything in a comedic delivery, then HBO’s U.S. Comedy Festival in Aspen could use some work. An old lament – that the festival fills up the resort when it would probably be filled with other, skiing guests – cropped up anew at Tuesday’s meeting of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors.While the return of Comedy Fest next year depends on HBO’s continued sponsorship, organizers have apparently penciled in dates in early March for the next three years, said David Perry, senior vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co. and a board member.A Comedy Fest spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.The Skico would like to convince festival organizers to hold the popular five-day festival of stand-up comedy, films and assorted programs a little later in the ski season, Perry said. Early April would be a good time, at least when Easter doesn’t fall then, he said.”As it is now, they displace people who want to come to ski,” Perry said. “We want to talk to HBO and see if we can convince them to do that. I don’t know how successful we’ll be.”This year, the Feb. 9-13 festival overlapped with Mardi Gras – a popular travel time for guests from South America and Latin America, he said. It will bump up against Mardi Gras again next year if the festival takes place at the start of March, Perry noted.Despite the conflict, this year’s 11th running of the festival clearly had the city’s support. The City Council put up $25,000 to help defray the cost of a tent in Wagner Park that provided one of the venues for festival acts.Comedy Fest is undoubtedly a boon for the lodging business and restaurants, board members said. But Jay Magidson, owner of Magidson Fine Art, said local retailers didn’t necessarily fare especially well during the influx of Comedy Fest attendees.”They’re not spenders,” he said.The festival did fill the Mountain Chalet, said Stan Hajenga, board member and general manager of the lodge.”HBO – we could have filled 20 more rooms if we’d had ’em, but yeah, they didn’t shop and they really displaced a lot of international people that we had to turn away,” he said. “If we could find a way to not compete with Mardi Gras, that would be a good thing.”Several board members stressed their desire to see events that draw visitors spread more evenly over the course of the season.”HBO and Mardi Gras in the same week is a perfect example, but HBO in early March would be even worse,” Perry said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.