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Racers including Cole Trautman, at center, sprint off the starting line during the 2019 Bolder Boulder Citizens Race. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
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Last Memorial Day, 43,000 people ran from Walnut and 30th streets in Boulder to Folsom Field at the University of Colorado for the 10K Bolder Boulder. But today, what should be a full stadium of spectators cheering on runners, is empty.

Like the Bolder Boulder, this year state, county and city regulations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have cancelled several warm season events and large gatherings. Some were postponed until later in the year, and others moved online. This is the first postponement of the annual Bolder Boulder since its inception in 1979.

Cole Carrigan cheers as he runs ...
Cole Carrigan cheers as he runs the 2019 Bolder Boulder Citizens Race.

One of Gov. Jared Polis’ first efforts on March 13 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus urged limiting public gatherings of 250 people or more unless the venue capacity permitted a minimum of 6 feet between individuals.  

The state safer-at-home mandate, the next level following a shelter-in-place order, went into effect on April 27. Boulder County followed suit on May 9. Small gatherings of 10 are now permitted — an impossible standard for the Bolder Boulder, the second largest U.S. 10K, according to Running USA. 

The race is set to move to Labor Day. However, to keep the Memorial Day tradition alive, Bolder Boulder is hosting the “VirtuALL Memorial Day 10K.” Registration opened on May 1 and within the first week, 3,000 individuals signed up.

“Since we can’t run together, we can still be connected but run in our own neighborhoods, on our favorite trails, on our specially-crafted 10K course,” said race director Cliff Bosley. “And so the connectedness will come as a result of running apart, but running apart together.”

Registration is free, but runners can purchase limited edition merchandise. The virtual race slogan “OverCome” is printed on T-shirts and hats; $5 from every purchase is donated to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fund hosted by the state of Colorado and Mile High United Way.

Throughout the year, Bolder Boulder has a small staff but hires 85 to 90 seasonal employees who work through June, helping with the race. With the postponement, no temporary support is hired at the moment.

Bolder Boulder’s revenue stream relies on registration fees and corporate sponsors. Registration costs $54 and races average 40,000 to 50,000 runners. A $15 discount is offered to military, youth and seniors, and some volunteer groups exchange hours for free entry. Bosley said that the sales made through registration is less than the cost to hold the event, so corporate sponsors are essential.

The event donates proceeds to “five or six dozen charity, volunteer and beneficiary organizations” with its largest being CU Boulder’s cross country team.

The Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the Bolder Boulder is responsible for $10 million worth of economic impact on the community of Boulder on Memorial Day weekend.

The second traditional pillar of Boulder’s Memorial Day weekend celebrations also was a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic: The three-day Boulder Creek Festival was postponed from May 23-25 to July 31 through Aug. 2. The event typically draws about 100,000 to 150,000 people to the city’s downtown core, also attracting scores of vendors from across the Front Range and beyond.

Other events also contribute to the local economy and to nonprofit or charitable ventures. Most of those from now through July have announced cancellations, postponements or virtual alternatives:

  • Colorado Mahler Festival (Cancelled with virtual performances)
  • Colorado Music Festival (Cancelled with virtual performances)
  • July 4 fireworks show sponsored by WK Real Estate and CU Boulder with support of city of Boulder (Cancelled)
  • Dead & Co two-day concert (Cancelled)
  • Boulder Craft Beer Festival (Cancelled)
  • Pearl Street Art Fest (Cancelled)

MaryAnn Mahoney, CEO of the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the impacts of lost events go beyond the economic impact. Annual events are valued traditions for Boulder.

“I think what it will do is help us appreciate so much more when these festivals come back, when they are produced again,” she said. “I think that we will feel so enriched, because we’ll remember what we lost when they weren’t here.”

Shakespeare Festival

The curtains for the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder won’t rise until 2021. Since 1958, the festival repertory company has presented plays from William Shakespeare throughout the summer. Opening day was scheduled for June 6 with the final performances on Aug.  9.

Rodney Lizcano (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) and Amber Scales (Viola, dressed as Cesario) in rehearsal for “Twelfth Night” (Colorado Shakespeare Festival 2019, photo by Jennifer M Koskinen)

On average, the festival sells 28,000 tickets, not including comps and student discounts, and attracts more than 30,000 people, according to Wendy Franz, managing director of the festival. Depending on the play and time of day, tickets can range from $10 to more than $90.

Tickets account for roughly 60% to 63% of the festival budget. Other support comes from CU Boulder, at about 17%, and corporate sponsors.

The 2020 festival planned to perform Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Pericles” and “Coriolanus,” and Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of “The Odyssey” by Homer. The postponement to 2021 will have the same plays.

CU Presents hired 142 employees for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival to work May through August. Franz said all staff members will be made offers to come back next year.

“The hardest part for us with postponing the season was the impact that it would have on our seasonal employees,” Franz said. “All of them: actors, as well as technicians, artisans, designers, directors. Even the people working the front of the house to sell your tickets or or scan your tickets when you get the door.”

Many seasonal workers live along the Front Range but the festival also hires from other parts of the country.

Franz added that theater is a close-contact industry whether it’s actors embracing on stage or set designers working in carpentry shops. Audience members cannot easily distance themselves from one another.

Every season, Franz contacts restaurants on University Hill to negotiate discounts for festival staff, encouraging them to patronize the nearby businesses.

For the better part of Cafe Aion LLC’s ’s 10-year history, it’s offered discounts to the staff. Cafe Aion offers Spanish- and Moroccan-inspired bites with a large wine selection.

Chef and owner Dakota Soifer said the restaurant relies on the Shakespeare Festival during the summer as its usual clientele, CU Boulder students, are fewer in number.

He guesses the festival bumps up evening sales by 50% from the slow period that starts at the end of the spring semester.

Longmont events

In February, Visit Longmont provided eight awards from the 2020 Tourism Grant, totaling $25,000. The grant’s purpose is to support events that attract visitors from outside of a 50-mile radius of the city and encourage tourism spending.

Hannah Hudson, left, shares a laugh with Joan Bruemmer-Holden during the annual Oktoberfest at Roosevelt Park in Longmont.

One event, Winter Folk organized by the Future Arts Foundation, already took place in February. Nancy Rezac, executive director of Visit Longmont, said it’s most likely the only recipient to not be cancelled for the 2020 calendar.

“Summertime in Colorado is just the time of celebration and it is so draining to hear from these people that they’ve had to postpone their events,” Rezac said.

The other seven events are: 

  • The Pressed Fest  — Colorado Cider Guild (Cancelled)
  • Bicycle Longmont Bike Ride — Bicycle Longmont (No announcement to date)
  • Longmont Jazz Fest — Longmont Jazz Association (Cancelled)
  • Oktoberfest — Left Hand Brewing Foundation. (No announcement to date)
  • Strings & Stories — Future Arts Foundation (Cancelled)
  • Hooplagers: The Lager Hoopla — Wibby Brewing (No announcement to date)
  • Rocky Mountain Dock Dogs — The Boulder County Fair (Postponed)

Rezac said the average daytime visitor to Longmont spends $151 and the general hotel room rate is $109. Visit Longmont predicted that between hotel stays, average tourist spending and the projected attendees that the eight events would generate $3.8 million.

Through March, lodging tax income was down by 33%, Rezac said. There are 17 Longmont establishments that contribute to lodging tax revenue, including hotels, bed and breakfasts and an RV trailer park.

Elsewhere in Boulder County

The Downtown Business Association and the city of Louisville announced the 2020 Louisville Street Faire has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The Street Faire was scheduled to begin June 19, but according to a statement from the association, the city is not issuing special event permits for large gatherings.  

Samantha Fish performs at the Louisville Street Faire in 2018. (Sue Norris/Courtesy photo)

In Superior, the pancake breakfast and the parade that are traditionally part of the July 4 festivities have been canceled. There is no word yet on if the annual fireworks display will be presented. 

“Staff will be working on alternative events to celebrate the holiday that take into consideration current and future restrictions due to the coronavirus,” Town Manager Matt Magley said at the May 11 trustees meeting.

July 4 festivities in Lafayette also are off this year. The celebration “has become a wonderful family event since the Chamber started it in 2011,” the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce stated on its website. “However, the Chamber has decided that for the safety of our community, sponsors, volunteers and vendors that this year’s … celebration and activities will be cancelled. We have taken into consideration everyone involved and did not make this decision lightly and we thank our wonderful community for understanding.”

Lafayette’s monthly Art Night Out events and Kids Public Safety Day in July also have been canceled. Additionally, city staff said the Great Outdoors Waterpark will not open for the 2020 season.

Erie also has postponed its Saturday concerts in Coal Creek Park through Aug. 8, but new dates for the weekly events have not been announced. 

Greeley Stampede

The tension from losing events extends past the Boulder Valley. The Greeley Independence Stampede is a 12-day annual celebration that ends on the Fourth of July. With the rodeos, concerts, carnival, food and drink vendors and more activities, the Greeley Stampede attracts 250,000 visitors on average.

What would have been its 99th year was postponed to 2021.

Justin Watada, general manager for the Greeley Stampede, said community organizations and sponsors rely on the event every year. In 2019, Greeley Stampede had 116 event sponsors. 

This year’s Greeley Stampede, which features a popular rodeo along with concerts and other events, has been canceled.(Randy Owens / Courtesy photo)

Community organizations raised $125,000 last year by volunteering for the event, Watada said. Customers who bought tickets for the 2020 Greeley Stampede can receive credit for 2021, be fully refunded or donate the ticket costs to organizations that use the event as a fundraising opportunity. 

Greeley Stampede hires 30 seasonal workers to run admissions. Additionally, more than 100 temporary bartenders are hired for the 12-day event.

The event operates on a $7 million budget. About 10% was already put into 2020 in the form of overhead and advertising. 

“Unfortunately our business model is different from other people’s — all of our revenue comes within those 12 days,” Watada said.

Greeley Stampede still plans to host an Independence Day fireworks show. And the Stampede will saddle up in the fall with The Spud Rodeo. There won’t be an audience in the arena for the rodeo, but it will be nationally broadcast  in September via the Cowboy Channel network. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Weld Recovers Fund COVID-19 Relief benefiting the United Way of Weld County and the Weld Community Foundation.

In addition to the Stampede, summer events and Colorado High School Activities Association sporting events attracted another 25,000 people to Greeley in June 2019, said Amy Dugan, director of Visit Greeley for the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce. July 2019 saw 52,000 visitors.

Cancelled events include the Greeley Blues Jams Festival in June and the High Plains Chautauqua in August.

Dugan said Greeley anticipated visitors from 300 or more miles away from Greeley to visit this summer. Of the 17 hotels and temporary-stay establishments Visit Greeley tracks, none have closed but all will have challenges as the summer wears on.

So far, Greeley’s autumn and winter events have not announced postponements. Dugan added that while it’s unfortunate to cancel events, the virus’ spread makes it paramount to wait until it’s safe for large gatherings.

“We’re figuring out ways to do some different things on a virtual basis, and try to encourage people to remember how much fun it was in ’19 and how much fun it will be in ’21, and we’re just taking a break in 2020, and that’s OK,” Dugan said.

NewWestFest

The Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, a free three-day concert series in Fort Collins co-produced by the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association, is postponed to Aug. 13-15, 2021.

NewWestFest in Fort Collins, seen here in 2014.(File photo)

Though the festival is free to the community, a 2018 survey found the average attendee spent $50.71, according to James Yearling, interim executive director for Downtown Fort Collins Business Association.

In 2019, average spending was $53.08.

Since the event is not ticketed, “We do not have an extrapolation of total spending that would be lost, but we do know that it’s significant,” Yearling said in an email. 

Sculpture in the Park

The Loveland High Plains Arts Council postponed the Sculpture in the Park Show and Sale until 2021, which was originally scheduled for August. Also in August for Loveland is the annual Fine Art Invitational and Art in the Park, both of which are cancelled.

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