Friday, December 01, 2006

Breckenridge Art Festival

Mark Beling's long-running July Art Festival, which is typically held over the Fourth of July weekend in Breckenridge, will return to Breckenridge this summer, albeit at a smaller venue with fewer artists selling their high-end crafts.

The fate of the 24-year-old festival has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride since late July when the Breckenridge Town Council voted to end the art fair at the town-owned Wellington and Sawmill parking lots, citing traffic congestion and overcrowding during the holiday weekend.

With Breckenridge out of the picture, organizers had planned on moving the fair to Dillon for the Fourth of July weekend, but pushed that event back when some unexpected competition cropped up.

Two weeks ago, Beling found out that the town of Frisco - which he had approached about hosting his July Art Festival back in August - signed on to host its own Fourth of July weekend art fair organized by Howard Alan, a well-known Florida-based art promoter.

According to Frisco spokesperson Linda Lichtendahl, the town is in discussions with Alan to produce an art show on July 7 and 8, but the two have not yet penned a contract.

Nevertheless, fearing that the potential competition from Alan would prevent Dillon's inaugural art show from prospering, Beling and Dillon's marketing director opted to move Dillon's show to July 20, 21 and 22.

"We just didn't feel it would be successful," said Carol Craig, Beling's marketing coordinator. "We were very concerned about not getting enough artists. We didn't feel that we would be able to do the kind of marketing and advertising necessary to get people to come to a brand new show in Dillon."

At that point Beling was left without a venue for his signature event, which is held on one of the busiest summer weekends in the county.

But, while Craig was talking with the merchants' association that organizes events at the privately-owned Main Street Station about the end of July art festival Beling typically holds there, the idea came up to swap dates in Breckenridge - Main Street Station would host the July Art Festival over the holiday weekend and the town of Breckenridge would rent out its parking lots for the July 26-28 show.

That way, Beling would still have a presence in Breckenridge over the holiday weekend, and because his is an established event that people expect to see in town, it would be easier to draw visitors, even with an art fair on the same weekend in Frisco, Craig said.

"It seemed to be a really great scenario so that's kind of what we decided to do, and ixt really is going to work out well for everybody. It felt right," Craig said.

The July Art Festival will be scaled back next summer because Main Street Station is a smaller venue than the parking lots where the fair has been held in years past. About 60 to 70 artists are expected to be in attendance, as opposed to the 150 vendors who sold there last year, Craig said.

Meanwhile, the Dillon Art Festival should bring in approximately 100 artists. Beling's team is hoping this summer will be the first step in the cultivation of a solid arts event on the northern side of the county.

"I really think the show in Dillon can develop into its own signature event," Craig said.

Last week, the Dillon Town Council signed a contract with Beling for the Dillon Art Fair, despite some initial concerns over the later date in July. In early October, the town council had agreed to move forward with Beling to host the Fourth of July art festival.

"I would think that by this time in July the artists will begin to think the county is maxed out," Councilmember Don Parsons said.

Craig said she and Beling believe there are enough visitors, part-time homeowners and locals who enjoy the art festivals that the market in Summit County won't become diluted, especially with shows spread throughout the county.

"I think the people who would come to the Dillon Art Festival aren't going to drive to Breckenridge for an arts festival, especially on the Fourth of July weekend," she said.

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