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November 8, 2012
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GRAND VALLEY: No longer an outpost, but a destination

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With a full season of events and festivals put to bed, Grand Valley tourism leaders remain pleased with the millions of dollars in positive impacts to the local economy. Hosting events translates into big bucks and lots of travelers funneling through Mesa County from May through October."Most people don't realize that tourism is an export industry," Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau (GJVCB) Executive Director Debbie Kovalik said. "Visitors come to our area, bring their money from their community, leave it here and then head home with lots of memories. Tourism is a 24/7 industry and it's constantly generating income for the Grand Valley."And with so many events, it's hard to choose just one to attend. In a recent survey conducted last month by the GJVCB, many of those questioned (59%) said they attend local events and festivals when they visit the Grand Valley. Palisade's Colorado Mountain WineFest, which ran Sept. 13-16, was the most popular with survey respondents.Festivals and events may be a huge attractor, but the valley's 1.2 million acres of federal land sweetens the deal, Kovalik said."There's lots of outside places to play," she added.Want to learn more? Here's a taste of the Grand Valley's recently concluded 2012 event season, highlighting attendance estimates and local economic impacts.

Palisade's Colorado Mountain WineFest attracted more than 6,000 people to some part of the four-day event, organizer Cassidee Shull said. Most of those people came from out of town. And more than 5,000 attendees were in the park Saturday (the festival's biggest day)."WineFest has historically been an event that carries one of the largest economic impacts throughout the Grand Valley," said Shull, who's also the executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology.Tourism dollars aren't just spent at the festival grounds, she added. WineFest attendees also spent at local hotels, restaurants and shops.For those traveling to Palisade from out of town, at least one (or in many cases two) nights were spent in hotels, Shull said. Many people traveled to Palisade from the Front Range (people from Denver, Colorado Springs and Highlands Ranch were all represented). Plus, tourists from 34 different states visited, too."We also had a group from Australia," Shull said.By attracting an older demographic (40-55) with discretionary income, WineFest delivers a huge economic impact to Palisade and the rest of the community."They have disposable income to drink and buy wine," Shull said. "Almost all the wineries involved (in 2012) sold more wine than in years past, and people are supporting Colorado's wine industry more and more. It's exciting to know that we're doing something right."And here's a fun fact: Shull said the majority of people attending WineFest are coming back to Grand Junction for other events throughout the festival season.Next year's WineFest will be held Sept. 19-22, 2013.

• Icon Lasik Tour of the Moon, Oct. 6"The Tour of the Moon Cycling Classic was a home-run event in regards to tourism," GJVCB spokeswoman Mistalynn Meyeraan said.The new event run by Event Marketing Group (EMG) on Oct. 6 hosted 1,830 registered riders through the Colorado National Monument, organizers said. And it hosted folks from 36 states, including Colorado. The median age of cyclists participating was 49, and there were more male participants than female (64%/36%).The economic impact felt was substantial as well. Event manager Scott Olmsted said 585 out-of-town cyclists stayed one night in Grand Junction, 933 out-of-town cyclists stayed two nights, and 146 out-of-town cyclists stayed three or more nights.That totals 2,889 nights spent in Grand Valley hotels, Olmsted added. "Based on the GJVCB multiplier of $257 of economic impact for each overnight stay, the aggregate of nights stayed in Grand Junction is $743,093 (2,889 nights x $257)."Olmsted broke it down even further - he estimated $76,000 in "direct event expenses paid to local vendors" and $23,200 in "direct event donations paid to local nonprofit organizations."That means $842,293 was the "total economic benefit to Grand Junction generated by the inaugural Icon Lasik Tour of the Moon," he said.EMG owner and event organizer Mike Heaston, who also works with the Fruita Fat Tire Festival and Tour de Vineyards, noted that he'd like to bring the Tour of the Moon cycling event back year after year.• Tour de Vineyards, Sept. 15 Tour de Vineyards, another EMG event, ran in conjunction with the four-day Colorado Mountain WineFest in Palisade.According to Heaston, the one-day bike ride had 851 cyclists participate from 16 states. Of the riders, 63 percent were female and 38 percent were male. And 80 percent of the cyclists were over 40.Many of the cyclists also participated in WineFest, Heaston said."Out of 851 registered, only 26 were from GJ/Fruita, so 825 were from outside the area (97%)," Heaston said, also estimating that riders each stayed at least one or two nights in the Grand Valley due to both events. He noted that ride participants may have generated up to $318,037, but that estimate must also take into account the crossover participation in WineFest.• Fruita Fat Tire Festival, April 26-29 Fruita Fat Tire Festival kicked of a strong event season in the Grand Valley, with more than 1,000 visitors over four days in Fruita.Heaston noted that 85 percent of Fat Tire attendees were from outside the area, and many stayed for 2 1/2 days."Fruita and the Grand Valley would be looking at $546,125 in economic benefit," he said. "The entire Grand Valley benefits because of limited lodging in Fruita."Event attendees ranged in age from 30-50 on average, Heaston added.

The Junior College Baseball World Series, held in 2012 from May 26 through June 2, is another yearly tradition packing a huge economic boost to Grand Valley business.With 10 junior college baseball teams coming in from around the country - plus event organizers, family, friends and sponsors - Kovalik (of the GJVCB) said the weeklong event brings in about $1 million in tangible sales felt throughout Mesa County. The economic impact includes hotel rooms, meals, transportation and other activities for both JUCO players and others connected to the event.JUCO organizers said 103,000 people attended JUCO games in 2012, including many active volunteers and sponsors from Grand Junction's community."The value of hosting an event of this caliber is priceless," Kovalik added. "It suggests ... that Grand Junction is large enough to host a national collegiate event." With a 50-year-old tradition in Grand Junction, Kovalik also said JUCO means a lot to the kids who play in it, the community that hosts it, and the National Junior College Athletes Association (NJCAA) staff putting it on each year."It's huge for the city and the NJCAA," NJCAA Executive Director Many Ellen Leicht said. "Student athletes benefit, too."

• Country Jam USA Music Festival, June 21-24According to Shafer Marketing Owner Julie Shafer, Country Jam brought more than 120,000 individuals to Mack, Colo., for a long weekend of music in the sun."Our numbers were up well over 20 percent for Country Jam (in 2012)," Shafer said. "We draw from a six-state region, and our number-one market is a large footprint of western Colorado. The number-two (spot) is Denver."Country Jam is already trending high for 2013 ticket sales, too. Shafer said the sell-out festival is pacing ahead again because of national promotions and recently announced headliners Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum.• Rock Jam Music Concert, Aug. 24-25Rock Jam has a similar footprint to Country Jam, Shafer said. And it's held in the same location, open land near the highway in Mack. "We estimate that attendance was around 50,000 (in 2012)," Shafer said, and it was also up more than 20 percent from 2011 (like Country Jam)."We have (more than) 3,000 campsites, and we end up with roughly 10,000+ people who come out and camp with us," Shafer said. "We had to double up on buses for shuttles, primarily from hotels. We know that there's an influx of people and it's really tremendous."• Air Show with the Blue Angels, Sept. 21-23The recent air show hosted approximately 25,000 people from across eastern Utah, western Colorado and up the I-70 corridor, Shafer said. "Our goal is to have people come in from out of town, and it's our understanding that we did help hoteliers here in the Grand Valley."

• Downtown Art & Jazz Festival, May 11-13Grand Junction Downtown Partnership spokeswoman Kathy Dirks said she estimates 12,000 people attended the 2012 Downtown Art & Jazz Festival over three days on Main Street in Grand Junction."Beer and wine sales were up from 2011, so we estimate attendance numbers were also up," she said. "Stores and restaurants see good patronage during this event."• Downtown Farmers' Market, Thursday evenings, June 14-Sept. 20Attendance estimates each Thursday evening came in around 5,000, Dirks noted. There were also more farmers participating than in past years (21 farmers in 2012)."Produce was early this year, which made increased attendance," she said. "Vendors and farmers told us they had a good season at the market."• Downtown Car Show, Sept. 29Dirks estimated that 4,000 people attended the Fuoco Motor Co. Downtown Car Show in September."One-hundred-and-fifty-three cars were on display on Main Street between Third and Seventh streets, an increase over 2011," Dirks said. "The cars displayed were of very high quality, some of the best that we can remember. (More than) 30 percent of the car owners were from outside of Mesa County. This event brings good business to our restaurants and stores."Because all events put on by the Grand Junction Downtown Partnership are free, Dirks added that "it is difficult to get a hard number of attendees."

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 8, 2012 09:43PM Published Nov 8, 2012 05:12PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.