Major changes proposed for the Chili Pepper & Brew Fest in Snowmass Village, including moving the event from Fanny Hill to Town Park and allowing camping for hundreds, will go before Town Council on Monday.
If council gives its blessing, the June event’s name would change to the Snowmass Mammoth Fest, in light of the 2010 fossil discoveries, though there are no plans to eat away at the chili and beer components.
The moves are intended to reignite a festival that town officials believe to be stagnant or slumping, said Steve Gumble, president of SBG Productions and the founder of Telluride’s Blues & Brews Festival.
“They were looking for new direction and fresh blood for that event,” he said. “They thought it wasn’t expanding and in fact maybe was declining, and wanted a fresh approach.”
In order to “take it to next level, I believed there were dramatic changes necessary for its success,” Gumble said.
In its current state at Fanny Hill, the town-produced Chili Pepper & Brew Fest has been a great event, said Town Manager Russ Forrest.
“But it wasn’t moving our numbers on occupancy significantly,” he said. “We thought there is the opportunity to make this a significant event and move the needle on occupancy.”
The village’s tourism office reached out to Gumble, whose company is now in its 20th year of producing Blues & Brews in Telluride.
The popular event draws thousands — 1,600 people alone camp — and pushes the town’s occupancy rates to 90 percent, Gumble said.
Snowmass Village shouldn’t expect that kind of result overnight, however. Gumble said he plans on growing the Snowmass Mammoth Fest slowly.
The idea for June 7-8 is to allow 300 people to camp on the sports fields near Town Park at the village’s entrance. Gumble said his company is close to signing 10 bands, including nationally known ensembles, a large increase over years past. He declined to name the possible acts until they’ve been signed.
Gumble said the budget for the event is well over $250,000 and that he’s already blown it, a development with which both he and the town are fine. His company is responsible for any overages, while the town would kick in $25,000 to $30,000, mainly for transit services.
The music, chili and beer tasting would last until 10 p.m., according to Forrest’s memo to council.
“It creates a certain vibe that the Roaring Fork Valley hasn’t experienced: a music event with camping,” Gumble said. “We really pushed hard for that, and the town understood that’s what makes Telluride successful in the event.”
Fanny Hill’s slope isn’t conducive to an all-day type of festival that could draw nearly 3,000 people on June 8, a Saturday, leading to the push for Town Park, he said. Town Park is the site of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend concerts.
Proposed prices are $35 for opening day on June 7, $55 for June 8, or weekend passes for $80 (the early-bird rate is $60). Camping would cost $25 a person, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Town officials were cautious about allowing camping, Gumble said, but were persuaded by his pitch that many who return to the Telluride event eventually choose condos over tents.
“People get hooked on the experience, but then they’re over camping, and they tend to upgrade and will splurge on a condo,” he said. “This is an affordable introduction to the event. It’s a trial run with 300 people allowed to camp, and the ultimate goal is to increase the occupancy rate that way.”
Town staff have spoken with businesses on the Snowmass mall and in Base Village about relocating the event away from them, Forrest said.
There’s no consensus on the plan, but “creating another significant event ... has an impact for our hotels and merchants,” he said. “That will be part of the debate on Monday.”
Some of the nighttime concerts would shift to Base Village and the mall in an attempt to drive attendees to local businesses, mirroring the Telluride model, Gumble said.
With attendees having access to 26 brewers, officials also want to ensure someone on site is responsible for keeping it quiet after a certain hour and that “hygiene is taken care of,” Forrest said.
If approved, SBG Productions would be granted a temporary use permit.
Council members, reviewing the town’s marketing plan on Dec. 3, were supportive of shifting the festival to Town Park, Forrest’s memo says.
That should be music to the ears of valley residents, Gumble said.
“I think it will be an amazing change,” he said. “It’s a great recipe, and one that’s proven to work” in Telluride.