Wintersköl fireworks in doubt |

Wintersköl fireworks in doubt

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association does not have money for the Wintersköl fireworks show scheduled for this January.

American Express was the main sponsor of the event for the past three years, but the company ended its relationship with the ACRA eight months ago.

“Based on their marketing objectives and current business situation, American Express chose not to spend money in the Rocky Mountain region,” said Hana Pevny, the president of ACRA. “Aspen was not singled out. In light of that, we currently do not have a presenting sponsor for Wintersköl.”

The traditional winter fireworks show has cost $15,000 in the past but could be higher this year. The fireworks vendor who has often done the show in the past was hurt by the fire ban in Colorado this summer and may raise prices for this winter.

Pevny, who joined ACRA after American Express pulled out, is looking for a new corporate sponsor for Wintersköl. She has hired IEG, a Chicago-based sponsorship consulting firm, to evaluate the event and recommend likely sponsors. That report won’t be complete for a month.

At an ACRA meeting Tuesday, Rick Jones asked his fellow board members what they thought about using $15,000 for fireworks from a recently created $40,000 fund that was set up to provide money for special events aimed at destination skiers.

“We don’t have money for fireworks,” Jones said, pointing out that the timing was getting tight to line something up.

But board members were quick to point out that the new fund required a grant process that has not even been set up yet and that the ACRA would need to take special care to review a request from its own Wintersköl committee.

“Wintersköl does quality,” said board member John Sarpa. “But it should go through the exact same process.”

The new fund was set up after the city’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission lobbied for a share of the $400,000 in marketing and special events money the city brings in from a lodging tax. The group wanted to ensure that at least some of the bed tax money was directed at special events in an effort to liven up downtown Aspen.

The city contracts with ACRA to spend the money to market “Aspen/Snowmass.” But Pevny was not sure whether the contract with the city would allow ACRA to spend money on Wintersköl fireworks. “I have to check with the city on that,” she said. “I have to go back and read the agreement.”

And she has ruled out asking the city to pay for the display. The city does cover the cost of the town’s Fourth of July fireworks, but does so through an annual grant program.

So Pevny is open to an open checkbook.

“We are looking for a new sponsor, be they a private company or a private citizen,” she said. “We are looking for all types of sponsors.”

There are a variety of local community sponsors that support Wintersköl, and it is possible that enough local businesses will step up to cover the cost of the winter pyrotechnics.

In addition, Pevny and her staff are talking to existing corporate sponsors of other winter events to see if they are interested in supporting Wintersköl.

“We have irons in the fire,” she said.

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