Carver Brewing waitress Alora Lind isn’t in a habit of helping customers make important life decisions – she recommends the Irish Stout and the Big Bike Double IPA for beers – but when the Snowdown Board of Directors needed help picking a new theme, she was happy to oblige.
“I’ve grown up in Durango, so I’ve been to a lot of Snowdowns, and I’d like to have a theme that was kind of up to me, right?” Lind said.
With Lind’s help, next year’s theme was changed from “Still Sporty at Forty” to “It’s a Black Tie Affair” – a change necessitated after sufficient public outcry and head-scratching ensued around the anniversary theme.
“The more the theme got around and the more we talked about it, it just didn’t seem to pop like a lot of them do,” said Peg Ochsenreiter, vice president of the Snowdown Board of Directors.
This is the first time in Snowdown’s 40-year history the theme has changed after it was selected and announced, Ochsenreiter said.
During typical years, Snowdown participants submit suggestions for the theme, which are used by the board to make a final selection. “Still Sporty at Forty” was chosen for its rhyming qualities and because Durango is a sporty town. Snowdown 2018 also falls a week before the Winter Olympics, giving it a timely hook.
The board picks the theme in November, more than a year ahead of the five-day winter celebration. In other words, “Still Sporty at Forty” was chosen in November 2016, announced during Snowdown 2017, and was to be implemented during Snowdown 2018, which runs Jan. 31 through Feb. 4.
“The theme we had chosen last November just didn’t seem to go with anyone,” Ochsenreiter said. “The public was like, ‘What?’ We couldn’t really wrap ourselves around how we would make it work.”
Organizers knew they had a problem when even artists struggled with how to illustrate the theme for posters, buttons and brochures, said Julie Oskard, Snowdown’s minister of propaganda.
After its April 18 board meeting, organizers went to Carver Brewing for drinks. They asked Lind what she thought of the “Still Sporty at Forty” theme, and like a lot of people, she was lukewarm on the idea, Ochsenreiter said.
Board members asked her to suggest a better theme, and after a brief discussion with fellow staff members, Lind suggested “It’s A Black Tie Affair,” Ochsenreiter said.
Board members mulled it over and quickly embraced it, Ochsenreiter said. They envision a formal “thrift store” approach with glitter, sequins and other lowbrow accessories. It also pays homage to Terry Fiedler, one of the founders of Snowdown, who started the black-tie Follies Gala in 1989.
Fiedler suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a nursing home outside Philadelphia.
“We thought what better way to celebrate the 40th with lots of sequins, fancy dress up from the thrift stores and as a tribute to Terry, because he was so Mr. Snowdown for so many years,” she said.
Organizers plan to put out a new request for artists proposals with the “It’s A Black Tie Affair” theme.
Lind said Durangoans don’t often dress up, so this could be a different experience for them, and it will be fun to see residents’ different interpretations of what it means to dress formal.
“Durango is one of those laid-back dressing kind of towns,” she said. “We wear a lot of casual clothing, and I think it’d be kind of fun if everyone had an option to dress up into a suit and tie or a fancy dress. ... Just kind of an interesting concept for Durango.”