We are living in a time when people, places and events---great and small---are suffering the effects of a calamity few could have imagined. The coronavirus has forced us, quite literally, to adapt to a new way of living. Who could have ever visualized a country where masks---facial coverings---were normal while not wearing one was the exception? Hint: it’s today.
The virus has caused cancellations of schools, commencements, shuttered businesses, even closed up churches, hopefully, all temporarily. And while the impact of the virus has mostly focused on the top of the food chain, it has also permeated smaller venues in an equally devasting way.
“It (the coronavirus) has been really hard on our community and revenue,” said Rod Slyhoff, President of the Great Pueblo Chamber of Commerce. While Slyhoff and his staff are still planning Pueblo’s big, outdoor fall event, The Chile & Frijoles Festival,’ it’s still not certain the $2 million shot in the arm event will happen. But the Chamber is moving ahead. The festival fills up restaurants, hotels and motels, and locals and out-of-towners spend money.
The virus has also caused lost business for the city’s Convention Center, though Slyhoff did not offer any numbers.
But all through southern and southwestern Colorado, the coronavirus has impacted summertime planning and events. Perhaps, the biggest summer event for this region of the state is the Colorado State Fair, an eleven day event that caps off the summer and means more than $35 million to the state economy and nearly that much to Pueblo. A decision on holding the fair will be made later this month.
The city of Alamosa, the economic hub of the San Luis Valley, has been left reeling from Covid-19, said Erin Keck, President of the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Director of Alamosa’s Marketing District. “We’re trying to be flexible,” Keck said in a recent phone conversation. “Things are changing every day.”
“Typically, we kick things off with the ‘Summer Festival on the Rio’,” said Keck. Other annual summertime events that are now scuttled include the town’s ‘Beat the Heat Barbecue,’ ‘The Art Walk,’ ‘The Brew Festival,’ and ‘Rails and Ales.’ “All of our Fourth of July events have been cancelled.” Keck said that if they can salvage any of the events and simply push them back, they will. “We still have hope for the end of summer and fall.”
But as Alamosa goes with summertime events, so too, go all the towns in the Valley. Monte Vista has cancelled its Stampede and was also forced to cancel its Home & Garden event in April. Del Norte and Southfork also had to cancel summer events. But a recent smaller outbreak of the coronavirus in Alamosa is threatening other planned events. One potential victim is the picturesque town of Creede. So far, the town has not redlined any summer events but it may have to in the coming days.
Three big summertime attractions in southern Colorado, however, are open and already attracting crowds. Lake Pueblo, the biggest boating option in the region that includes a hundred mile shoreline, is open for boaters and overnight camping.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is also open for visitors. However, it cautions potential visitors to check its website before making the trek to southern Colorado. “We are increasing access and services in a phased approach across all unites of the National Park System,” says the website. “Before visiting, please check the park website.”
The San Isabel National Forest, just south of Pueblo, is also open for visitors and campers. But like the Great Sand Dunes, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it advises potential visitors to check the website before making the trip.
According to figures from a 2011 financial impact study, the Fairgrounds facility provides nearly $34 million in economic activity to Colorado throughout the year. Of that figure, $29 million is driven by the Fair itself.