MusicFest 2021 canceled in Steamboat Springs due to COVID-19 concerns

Cooper Gutierrez performs during a MusicFest free concert.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — MusicFest in Steamboat Springs has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

John Dickson, founder of the annual, weeklong festival, announced the decision “with heartfelt remorse” in a video distributed Monday. He cited health and safety concerns as the primary reasons for the decision.

“The expectations of this festival are set high, and anything less would not be the MusicFest,” Dickson said in the video.

He went on to thank Steamboat Resort and the surrounding community for supporting the festival. He also expressed appreciation for the first responders and people working on the frontlines of the pandemic.  

For the Steamboat community, MusicFest serves as one of the biggest economic boons of the year, attracting more than 7,000 festival guests, according to Dickson, plus an estimated 15,000 other people who come for the free concerts and events. 

These visitors tend to stay longer and spend more money than at other events in the city, according to John Bristol, director of economic development for the Steamboat Springs Chamber. 

The MusicFest website describes the festival as “The Super Bowl of Texas Music.” It typically features more than 100 live performances representing a variety of folk, country, rock ‘n’ roll and other genres. For the past 19 years, the event has sold out, according to Dickson. 

In addition to the ticketed concerts at the resort’s Knoll Parking Lot, multiple free shows occur at venues throughout Steamboat at bars and restaurants. Other free concerts take place at the base of the ski area. 

The festival has been a longstanding tradition marking a collaboration between festival organizers, the resort and the broader community, said Loryn Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. 

“Obviously, this was a difficult decision for them,” Duke said, “but we appreciate their approach to this unique winter.”

The cancellation comes as an economic hit to the resort as well. As Duke explained, MusicFest usually represents a majority of The Steamboat Grand’s bookings for early January, reserving all the conference and group space, employing food and beverage services and reserving rooms for bands. Many festival guests also choose to book rooms at the resort-owned hotel to be close to the concerts, ski area and other activities, according to Duke.

Tickets for the event had not yet been sold, so no refunds are necessary. The next MusicFest is scheduled for Jan. 5 to 10, 2022.

Dickson concluded his video with an encouraging sentiment looking to the next festival.

“Rest assured, MusicFest 2022 will be a hell of a reunion,” he said.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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