Palisade to retain bluegrass festival

Despite losing nearly $50,000 in the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival’s first three years, the town of Palisade will sponsor the summer music event again next year — this time with an improved marketing effort to boost languishing ticket sales.

The Town Board voted 6–1 Tuesday night to support the festival for a fourth year, retain Mountain Groove Productions of Aspen as the promoter and add Cobb & Associates of Grand Junction as a marketing firm. Trustee Bennett Price cast the dissenting vote.

The decision followed a lengthy discussion among trustees who disagreed over the merits of the festival and pleadings from several town residents to continue the event. In the end, most trustees agreed the firms retained by the town must do a better job of getting the word out about the festival.

“We committed the sin of not doing the right thing with marketing,” said Trustee Dave Edwards, who initially appeared to favor turning over the operation of the festival to a private business or discontinuing the event and replacing it with a free or low-cost concert series. “We can’t keep making the same mistake.”

The three-day June festival moved to Palisade from Hotchkiss in 2009. The town sold more than 1,400 tickets and made more than $14,000 that year. Since then, the town has sold fewer than 1,100 tickets each year and lost more than $62,000.

Several trustees blamed Mountain Groove for failing to market the festival adequately and identify where attendees came from. Some contended the town can’t afford to continue losing money and questioned whether town residents or businesses benefit from the festival, although Town Administrator Tim Sarmo has said he heard positive reviews from downtown merchants after this year’s festival.

“There’s too many other things this town should be providing,” Trustee Penny Prinster said.

But Trustee Mike Krueger noted extenuating circumstances that included rain last year and flooding of the Colorado River this year could have contributed to a decline in attendance. And while he agreed the town must find some way to measure the festival’s benefit to Palisade businesses, he said he believed the town would err by discontinuing the event.

“To lose something that brings that many people to Palisade ... I think is a mistake,” he said.

Town resident Priscilla Mangnall urged trustees to retain the festival, telling them she attended it all three years and spent $300 to $400 during the festival weekend “because this is one of the most enjoyable festivals.”


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