More changes in store for chili, beer festival | AspenTimes.com

More changes in store for chili, beer festival

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The crowd rocks to musical duo twenty | one | pilots in Town Park during last year's Mammoth Fest. This year the festival, on June 13-15, will have some events in the Snowmass Village Mall as well as Town Park.

The producers of last year's Mammoth Fest are back, and they're making some changes in their second year of putting on the long-standing Snowmass Village event.

Although Steve Gumble Productions hasn't announced the music lineup yet — stay tuned for that in the coming days — it has set June 13 through 15 as the dates for the festival, which will be one day longer than in the past. The chili and beer festival will have more musical acts and hold some events on the mall as well as Town Park, which was the exclusive venue for the event last year.

The first day of the festival will offer two bands, a parade and a tasting of red and green chilis and salsa — all for free, and all on the Snowmass Village Mall. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.

Steve Gumble said one reason for moving the chili tasting back to the mall — the entire festival was held there for nine years — was feedback from businesspeople there who felt that the event was no longer benefiting them as it had in the past. It also lined up with the chili cooks' desires.

"A lot of chili cook-offs around the country are just that and nothing else," Gumble said. "(The chili cooks) felt a little bit overshadowed by all the other events going on."

Because it will be free, Gumble is assuming the first tasting will be highly attended. There also will be a competition early on the second day that the public can attend, but it will lack the fanfare of the first night.

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Once the free tasting ends on the second day, the gates will open in Town Park. There will be music throughout the day and a longer beer tasting than in the past.

"The biggest thing that we found is that people sort of came and went," said Gumble, whose company also produces Telluride Blues & Brews and the Durango Blues Train.

"We're used to sort of the typical festival where people come and spend the day," Gumble said. "That's what we're really encouraging, that people come early and bring lawn chairs, bring tarps, bring coolers, bring snacks. … We really want people to get in that mindset of 'Let's make a weekend out of this.'"

Because there won't be chili booths in the horseshoe at Town Park, that will free up room for a kids area with inflatable games — weather permitting — all day and a VIP seating section. VIP tickets also will offer an open bar, private bathrooms, a tent and parking passes.

It also will create more space for attendees to move about, Gumble said. He expects that to be more important as people relax and mingle during the longer beer tasting.

There will be only one beer tasting this year, something Gumble thinks people might not be used to. The third day of the festival will focus on music but still will offer food and beer for purchase.

The music over the course of the weekend will be bluegrass, rock and folk, which Gumble thinks will be more approachable for attendees.

"We had really good bands last year, but they were kind of more in that indie-rock genre, which is great music but not always a common denominator for people," Gumble said. "I'm super-excited about where the lineup is heading because I think it's going to be a lot more user-friendly this year."

Last year Mammoth Fest featured two nights of after-hours shows in the village. Saturday saw much higher attendance, so this year there will be a live band and a DJ performing at Base Camp Bar & Grill on the second night.

Looking for growth

The Chili Pepper & Brew Fest started in 2004 on Fanny Hill. Attendance was high in the beginning but had begun to wane, particularly at the 2012 festival, the first produced without Josh Behrman.

When Gumble got involved last year, he said having all three elements of the festival on Fanny Hill "didn't flow all that well."

"(Town Park is) so comfortable, and it's beautiful," Gumble said. "It makes it a relaxed event and makes it fun for the consume … as opposed to standing on an incline on Fanny Hill."

That change met with some resistance last year from mall businesspeople, many of whom feel that the purpose of the event is to attract tourism to the town. Snowmass Tourism, which is supported by tax dollars, pays Gumble to put on the event.

To Gumble, improving the festival experience will bring business to the commercial core eventually. He is taking small, calculated steps to improve and grow the event, he said.

"The trickle-down effect will have a positive impact on the mall," Gumble said. "It just doesn't happen overnight. … We'll have a lot of people coming to the event if it's run properly. … If we can continue the positive growth, it's inevitable that the mall and all the hotels and everyone will start really feeling the impact of the event."

This year's event will tell whether Gumble's changes will bring the success he hopes for.

"This is kind of a crossroad for us as a prod company. If we don't see … a positive growth in tickets, then we kind of have to re-evaluate what's going on in the Roaring Fork Valley," Gumble said. "We're hoping to see positive growth for sure."

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com