CRESTED BUTTE — Are you up for Whatever?
That's a loaded question in Crested Butte right now.
This mountain town that is known for wacky, out-of-the-box, costumed events is in a dither over secretive plans to have a beer company take over the town and literally paint it blue for an upcoming weekend as part of an online and television ad campaign.
The "Are You Up for Whatever" Bud Light campaign calls for bringing more than 1,000 up-for-anything revelers from around the country to a town that will be made over into a fantasy Bud Light-drinking community called "Whatever."
Townspeople — including a few in costumes — jammed a public hearing Monday night to cheer for those commenting that the giant beer party could be a great, money-making event, and to cheer equally loud for those saying that it would be an image-damaging sellout.
In what event organizers are calling "augmentations," Elk Avenue and its lampposts are to be fenced off and painted Bud Light blue. Buskers will be performing amid pop-up bars up and down the avenue. Bands will play from a giant sound stage. A huge Twister game is on the agenda. Only Bud Light products will be served in downtown watering holes that are part of the goings-on.
Plans also call for the town's big Mine Ice Arena and the Center for the Performing Arts to be made over into Whatever venues, all for a payment of $250,000 to town coffers by the Anheuser-Busch company.
In a town that is more craft beer than Bud Light, this was bound to light some fuses, as was the fact that it was kept secret until two weeks before it is to take place Sep. 5-7. Rumors about the Bud Light takeover, which is being referred to as MSEOTH (Major Special Event on the Horizon), began to leak out only in recent weeks.
"The secrecy behind the event is because we don't want 35,000 people here. It's a matter of safety and security for us," said Dan Marshall, who has been hired by the town to help plan for the event and to smooth ruffled feathers.
Many of the more than 50 speakers at the public hearing blasted town officials for that secrecy.
"I do not understand how this got this far down the road in absolute secrecy," said former Sen. Tim Wirth, who lives in Crested Butte and added that he doesn't like the idea of the town being turned into a beer parlor.
Resident Kevin McGruther, who came to speak in Mickey Mouse ears and a T-shirt with the message "Dumbest Town Ever," objected to the town being turned into Disneyland.
David Ochs, director of the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, said a chamber survey found 90 percent of residents in favor of the event.
"People come. They spend their money. They leave. That is the epitome of Crested Butte," Ochs said.
Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said in spite of what residents think, "It's not like this event is in the bag." Huckstep said, as comments stretched into three hours, that a decision may not be made until the council has more time to study the issue. Town staff has already generated a more than 100-page "Whatever USA Town Operations Packet."
The event had also been kept under wraps because secrecy is the basis for the Whatever ad campaign. It began at last year's Super Bowl with a surreal ad featuring Arnold Schwarze-negger playing ping-pong and Don Cheadle riding an elevator with a llama.
Follow-up videos on social media carried on the "Are you up for Whatever" theme and the fact that Bud Light was creating a secret Whatever town over the summer. Potential visitors to the Whatever town were asked to apply online so they could be whisked off to wherever for a weekend. More than 100,000 have applied.
The Town Council held the public hearing Monday after working behind the scenes on planning for the event since spring. That's when locals began noticing strangers crawling around bars with measuring tapes and check lists, booking most of the hotel rooms in Mt. Crested Butte, ordering large quantities of catered foods and telling locals they couldn't talk about what they were doing.
The criticism expressed at the public hearing for Crested Butte linking up with a big, corporate beermaker and the fact that the town settled for $250,000 — not enough in the opinion of many speakers — could still put the kibosh on the whole event.
Two representatives of Mosaic, a Chicago-based "experiential" marketing company that is organizing the Whatever event, tried to quell some of the rumors during the Monday meeting.
No, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Don Cheadle will not be here. Other celebrities will be. Bono won't play, but some C-list bands will. Blue-painted elephants will not be ambling down Elk. Blue-painted performers could be. The event will be made into a commercial, but won't be shown during Super Bowl.
"We will have a couple of surprises and delights for the community," said Sean Byrne of Mosaic.
Izzy's bagel shop owner Craig Maestro is not delighted. He is so angry about the potential event that he didn't come to the hearing.
"It's an absolute disrespect to the community to keep it secret from us," said Maestro, who has vowed to rip down any blue fencing in front of his shop.
Nancy Lofholm: 970-256-1957, email@example.com or twitter.com/nlofholm