No Wild West Air Fest at Steamboat airport this year
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Wild West Air Fest won’t be taking off this summer at the Steamboat Springs Airport.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber put on the Wild West Air Fest, but as the organization has shifted focus to economic and community development, it’s made some changes to its events line up. The Chamber won’t put on the air fest this year, and no one else has stepped in to take over the event.
Chamber CEO Kara Stoller said that as the chamber made plans for 2019, the Wild West Air Fest was projected to be a significant loss for the organization.
“Even with that, we would’ve considered moving forward with the event if it was the key driver for that weekend, but since Labor Day weekend has grown so much and there’s so many fantastic events going on now, we didn’t feel it was the main driver of Labor Day visitation and that it wasn’t serving the purpose it once was,” Stoller said.
Stoller explained the air fest was established to help drive visitation on Labor Day Weekend, but other events have grown to attract visitors Labor Day weekend, such as the Professional Bull Riding Bull Bash, the Yampa Valley Crane Festival and the Free Summer Concert Series End of Summer Jam.
It’s unclear when exactly the air fest came about, but it evolved out of a vintage aircraft fly-in that started in 1988.
In a way, the event is returning to its roots — the airport will host a fly in later in the month on Sept. 22.
Though the air fest brought about 3,000 spectators onto Bob Adams Field, Airport Manager Stacie Fain said it didn’t generate a lot of revenue for the airport. That’s not the goal of an air fest.
“An airport doesn’t really put on an air show to generate revenue, they put it on to grow future aviators and to educate people in the community about the airport,” she said.
She said nearly any pilot can remember attending an air fest as a child.
“That’s what we want to continue to do with the fly-in,” she said.
Fain’s expecting a few unique and historic aircraft models at the fly-in. Pilots will bring their planes to the Steamboat airport to celebrate flying with each other and the public.
“We’re excited about doing something a little different,” Fain said.
With the new event, Fain said airport staff is excited to create something new.
“This time, we can think a little outside the box and come up with some different ideas,” she said. “I think all of us are a little sad because we had performers that would come here year after year, and we may not see all of them.”
Fain said several pilots who showed off at the air fest have expressed an interest in attending the fly-in, and some might even offer rides to the public.
Even without the Wild West Air Fest, Fain’s expecting a busy summer at the airport, with 90 pilots flying in for a Skywagon conference and the potential for more flying up for a field trip from another aviator conference in Denver. Fire season last summer brought a steady stream of firefighters and fire suppression aircraft — something that Fain is prepared for this summer, too.
Fain said the airport is also in the thick of developing its new master plan and is holding multiple public meetings to gather community input — the next meeting is May 8.
The Chamber will continue producing the Steamboat Marathon, which is during a time frame the Chamber is trying to attract more guests to the area, Stoller said. It will also produce the July Fourth Parade and Winter Carnival Street Events.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today will take over production of the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo this summer.
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