Summer festival season kicks off
Naomi Smith loves festival weekends in the Grand Valley. But not because she’s attending them.
Instead, she’s likely to be spotted pouring wine and chatting with tourists at the winery she owns, Grande River Vineyards in Palisade.
“We always see a busier weekend when there are festivals,” Smith said. “Even if the festivals aren’t taking place in Palisade, they’re a huge shot in the arm.”
Festivals bring locals to a central location, but they also bring plenty of tourists to the Grand Valley. And tourists help keep wineries hopping, Smith said. But they’re not the only type of business that gets more visitors during festivals. Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority spokeswoman Kathy Dirks said restaurants with outdoor dining are a quick and easy-to-find oasis during festivals and the downtown farmer’s market.
“I think there are many stores that benefit from those festivals, too, especially the businesses that actively seek to get people in during festivals,” Dirks said.
The Palisade Chamber of Commerce decided to weave agritourism into its festivals this year. Each festival schedule lists local orchards and farms open for tours that day, including SunCrest Orchard Alpacas.
SunCrest owner Mike McDermott said he usually sees more visits in the fall and winter because alpaca fleece is associated with chilly weather. But he hopes the exposure in conjunction with festivals will help attract more tourists to his property in the summer.
“Festivals are drawing in out-of-town people, and they want to do different things throughout the weekend,” rather than spend all their time at a festival site, McDermott said.
The addition of festival and celebration days in Palisade in recent years has helped Theresa High of High Country Orchards in East Orchard Mesa drum up business, but she generally sees tourism amp up July 4 through Sept. 15, regardless of what’s going on in town that day. The orchard has cherry, peach, plum and apricot trees, plus grapes, which will produce the orchard’s first wine this year, a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The orchard plans to expand with a tasting room next year.
“We’re almost getting to be year-round,” High said, as are festivals in Palisade.
Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau spokeswoman Jennifer Grossheim-Harris said the bureau endorses towns and organizations starting new festivals to bring in more tourists. More often, though, she encourages successful festivals to add a day of activities.
Although first-quarter lodging tax revenue at local hotels this year is down 25 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009, Grossheim-Harris expects business at hotels to pick up this month. The height of festival season, which is April and May and then again in August and September, is when hotels generally do the most business, she said. June and July are usually slightly slower months because of hot weather and fewer festival weekends, she said.
Nonfestival events, such as the Junior College World Series and Mesa State College graduation, also fill up hotels around this time of year, according to Darshann Ruckman, assistant general manager at the Clarion Inn.