For 1st time, Freedom Conference to be held outside Steamboat; organizer blames local COVID-19 restrictions
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to clarify that the COVID-19 restrictions in Eagle and Routt counties are the same.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the first time in its history, The Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference is taking place outside of Steamboat Springs.
The annual event, which typically attracts hundreds of attendees and high-profile speakers, is moving this year to Beaver Creek, according to a news release from The Steamboat Institute. This will be the 12th annual conference organized by the conservative-leaning think tank, scheduled for Aug. 28 to 29 at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa.
In an email to Steamboat Pilot & Today, Jennifer Schubert-Akin, the Institute’s chairman, chief executive officer and co-founder, cited local restrictions over COVID-19 as the primary reason for the change in location. As Schubert-Akin explained, county limitations over gathering limits and a lack of large enough spaces in Routt County led to the decision. The venue in Beaver Creek allows The Steamboat Institute to host a “financially viable” event and accommodate guests in a “less restrictive environment,” she said.
Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton clarified that the restrictions between Routt and Eagle counties are the same, from gathering limits to mandate requiring face masks to be worn in businesses.
This year’s conference will come with some notable changes due to lingering COVID-19 restrictions in Beaver Creek and safety concerns. The ballroom of the venue, for example, will be limited to 250 people, according to Schubert-Akin. Organizers will keep the doors open to allow outdoor air to circulate through the room. Other events, such as the Coyote Gold Margarita Party on Aug. 29, will occur outside.
“With the additional indoor and outdoor options, we can offer our speakers and guests a safe and comfortable environment, with plenty of open space, fresh outdoor air and sunshine,” Schubert-Akin said in an email.
Schubert-Akin emphasized how she and other organizers are observing state and local restrictions and will provide face masks and hand sanitizer.
She described the Freedom Conference as an opportunity to learn about and discuss pressing issues on the national and global level as well as hear from leaders in government, business, education, military, journalism, media and entertainment.
Among the most prominent speaker’s at this year’s conference include Kimberley Strassel, a columnist and member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board; Nigel Farage, the founder of the libertarian United Kingdom Independence Party and current leader of the Brexit party; and Dr. Arthur Laffer, an economist who has advised several former presidents and invented the famous, also notorious, Laffer curve economic theory.
Topics will range from balancing liberty and security, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to the 2020 presidential election.
The annual event historically has sold out at 330 participants, according to Schubert-Akin. She said the direct economic impact of the conference has been $350,000 annually for the local community. Steamboat Institute is employing the services of Steamboat vendors who have worked with the conference in previous years as much as possible, according to Schubert-Akin.
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