GOWD changes venue

Opinions mixed on new location choice

Each year the Grand Olde West Days Committee makes changes and adds new forms of entertainment to keep the event fresh and exciting. This year, participants will probably see the biggest change ever.

The Grand Olde West Days (GOWD) Committee has decided to hold all events over the three-day Memorial Day Weekend at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

"It was a hard decision for us to make," committee member Karen House said.

For the past nine years, all Monday events were held downtown. Yampa Avenue was blocked off from Victory Way to Sixth Street and vendors set up booths in the middle of the street. Contests, entertainment and food were provided in the downtown park.

But placing some events downtown has been a logistical nightmare for event organizers, committee member Kathy Shea said. To hold Monday events downtown, vendors had to break down their booths and move them, city and county employees had to put in overtime to patrol the area or block off the street, and the committee had to spend $4,000 to move the stage and sound system to the downtown park.

According to Shea, several vendors have been lost because of the hassle of moving booths from the fairgrounds to downtown. That lost money could have been used to bring more events to town for the weekend, Shea said.

Shea believes holding all events at the fairgrounds will attract more vendors and give the committee the opportunity to reach its goal of becoming self-sufficient.

But downtown business owners aren't happy with the change. Though many say the GOWD weekend isn't profitable, they believe the tradition of holding Monday events downtown and the historical tie to the Museum of Northwest Colorado are important.

"It's more accessible and people are in the habit of going downtown," On the Shelf Bookstore owner Linda Booker said. "Originally, GOWD was formed around the historic part of Craig."

Several business owners believe changing the venue of the events is a mistake and believe it will irritate and confuse participants. So far, the input Booker has received has been negative, she said.

"It may be nice logistically, but I think the connection between GOWD and the museum will suffer," Kitchen Shop Owner Nadine Daszkiewicz said. "The downtown businesses aren't angry, we just think they're making a mistake.

The GOWD committee has hired a horse-drawn wagon for the weekend that will transport people from the fairgrounds to the museum in a western fashion. The committee has also offered to work with the museum to plan weekend events.

Museum Director Dan Davidson said he is disappointed with the change, but understands the reasons.

"I know they have the right motive in doing it," he said. "I can see their point."

The museum will also celebrate its 10th anniversary at its Yampa Avenue location and plans several events over the holiday weekend.

Despite some of the hard feelings created, members of the GOWD committee believe they're doing the right thing.

"We are marketers and promoters of the area," Shea said. "GOWD was never defined as a downtown event."

Downtown business owners say they probably won't open Monday for Memorial Day. According to Daszkiewicz, they don't want to interfere with input the committee gets from the public on the change.

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