Summer always will be the annual peak for dollars, people and events that fill Durangos streets, but special events in town during the spring preseason have reason to brag as well this year with many reporting record numbers of attendees and money raised.
While successes by themselves, strong showings at events this spring also are a good sign for what the summer season holds, said John Cohen, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.
Were optimistic for the summer, Cohen said. Were confident were going to see growth.
Attendance in Iron Horse Bicycle Classic events, such as the Quarter Horse and the mountain bike race, were up 20 percent, said Ed Zink, co-founder of the event. Though the event has grown in past years, the double-digit increase this year went well beyond the expectations of event organizers, Zink said.
Some of the increase could have been people deciding at the last minute to register for more events because of sunny skies on Memorial Day weekend, but it was noteworthy that people decided to come Durango at all, Zink said.
The fact that so many people came shows they arent afraid of the price of gas. They did come, and that may be some indication that people are going to come all summer, he said.
The record crowds also made restaurateurs happy.
Steamworks Brewing Co. had a string of records during the Iron Horse weekend busiest day ever on Saturday, largest beer sale day ever on Sunday and largest holiday weekend by about 11 percent, said co-owner Kris Oyler.
Its a big holiday weekend, so for sure, we would have increased business, but not to that level without the Iron Horse, Oyler said.
Carver Brewing Co. also was about as busy as you can get over Memorial Day weekend, said co-owner Jim Carver.
As for other May events, Taste of Durango was attended by a record 10,000 people, said Sean Devereaux, event coordinator and president of the Durango Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association.
The Wine Experience, held in early May, had the highest ticket sales in the events history, said event coordinator Leah Deane.
City sales-tax numbers saw a boost as well, with May marking the sixth consecutive month of positive increases. May sales-tax collections, which represent April spending, were up 3 percent compared with the same month in 2010.
Other events saw their numbers bounce back to their highest points after a dip last year.
The eighth annual Men Who Grill event on June 4 raised $15,000 for the Womens Resource Center, a 25 percent increase compared with last years event, said Liz Mora, executive director of the resource center, which hosted the event. Profits were on track with 2009, which was the events biggest year, Mora said. The sunny weekend weather helped boost attendance, and people also seemed to be spending more, especially on beer, she said.
The Durango Independent Film Festival saw a similar pattern. Numbers of butts in seats, increased to rival 2009s record numbers, said Joanie Fraughton, the festivals executive director. Numbers took a hit last year when spring break vacation for Durangos schools was moved to include the festivals dates.
Organizers were thrilled then, when the schools spring break stayed the same and numbers bounced back from 2010, Fraughton said.
The Durango Bluegrass Meltdown didnt see a big increase in people who purchased passes, but it did see a rise in the number of free events held in venues other than the festivals official stages, said Michael Burke, a founder and former president.
Bob Kunkel, downtown business development manager for the city of Durango and executive director of the Business Improvement District, said he also has noticed across-the-board improvements among special events this spring.
People are starting to get out and about, he said.