Labor Day Festival sees low-key sales |

Labor Day Festival sees low-key sales

Joel Stonington
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

About one-third fewer people attended this year’s Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival than in the past couple of years, though fans and festival organizers were upbeat about the new sounds and the sunny weather. Vendors at the event reported breaking even, or making a slim profit from the smaller crowds. And Snowmass police reported a low number of arrests (all for underage drinking), and just a handful of people taken to the hospital for drinking too much. According to Jazz Aspen Snowmass Executive Director Jim Horowitz, this year’s festival drew a total of 21,500 fans over its four-day span.

Don Henley drew the largest crowd, with 7,200 people purchasing tickets for Sunday night’s show. The same number of people attended last year’s Thursday night Widespread Panic show; more than 10,000 went to the Panic show the following night.”You can’t compare it to last year at all,” Horowitz said. “Widespread was a cult band with a wide following. Every festival is different. It could have been a little more [people] but it was very solid and well received, and that’s what’s important.”Total attendance this year was about two-thirds of that seen in the last two years. All told, 5,800 people attended Kanye West’s performance on Saturday, 4,500 saw LeAnn Rimes on Friday and 4,000 showed up for Matisyahu and Keller Williams on Monday.”It was a very different, very eclectic festival,” said Horowitz. “The organization reached out to new audiences. We’ve introduced a lot of different artists this year.”

In vendor village, sales were similarly down from previous years, though food seemed to sell better than clothes. “I expect to come out at about half of what I did last year,” said Nathan Todd, owner of Festival Outfitters, which sells cowboy hats, pipes, jewelry and clothes at festivals around the country. “I’ll make a small profit. I’m not upset, but it could have been much better.”Some vendors lamented the fact that some concerts ended around 7:30 p.m.”As soon as it got dark, everyone was gone,” said Todd. “When it’s dark is when the vendors make money.”

That sentiment was echoed by Greg Topper, chef and owner of Topper’s; he said he might break even on the weekend. The anomaly seemed to be The Grill Next Door, which reported better sales than last year. Hoss Orwat, who teamed up with the GND to open Big Hoss Grill in Snowmass, was serving barbecue and figured the new tastes were helping draw people in. “We’ve had people come back three days in a row,” he said.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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