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Snowdown likely to have a positive impact on local businesses this year

Early anecdotal indicators shows yearly event was a boon for Durango
Sales Tax Data will be available later in February, giving an indication of the economic impact of Snowdown. However, Business Improvement Director Executive Director Tim Walsworth said the number of people downtown last weekend is a positive indicator for Durango businesses. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

When people think of winter in Durango, it’s hard to not think about the Snowdown Festival.

The annual festival started in 1979 as a way for people and businesses to thrive during the harsh winter months.

Today, someone can’t walk down Main Avenue during Snowdown and not see long lines coming out of their favorite bar, restaurant or hangout. Residents mob the streets in costumes while tourists do a double take.

People attend for the sake of partying, camaraderie, event participation and to support their favorite local businesses.

“For sure, in the winter months, and maybe even year-round, it's one of the biggest things for downtown,” Business Improvement District Executive Director Tim Walsworth said.

He said the event is crucial for the city’s economy in the slow months of January and February.

Normally, post-holiday business is slow and dependent on whether Durango receives a fair amount of snow.

COVID-19 put a damper on Snowdown and the community, much like it did the rest of the world.

Snowdown 2021 was canceled while many events were scaled back in 2022. Walsworth said COVID-19’s impact on Snowdown hurt businesses during those two years.

He said there will not be any sales tax data for another month to evaluate the economic impact of this year’s Snowdown, but he feels positive about this year’s turnout.

“If you were out there (this year), you could tell there was just more energy, there's more people who were comfortable coming out, and so that was great,” said Walsworth.

This year’s Snowdown Festival held 162 events at business in all corners of town and even included some events at the Billy Goat Saloon in Bayfield.

The pandemic caused the demise of popular businesses like The Irish Embassy and Kassidy’s Kitchen, but with Snowdown returning with strong turnouts, Walsworth is happy to see that Durango’s business environment is rebounding.

The benefit of the Snowdown Festival goes far beyond Durango’s local bar and restaurant scene. Jack Llewellyn, the Durango Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, said has a bit of a multiplier effect,

He owned multiple businesses in downtown Durango and would often run into people visiting from Albuquerque or Phoenix for the festival. He said people will participate in events but also to see what shops may have to offer.

“We had a lot of people that would come in and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we come up here every year for Snowdown’,” said Llewellyn

Walsworth said Durango retailers often see a boost in sales because people are shopping for Snowdown costumes.

Participating in Snowdown events can also be an useful marketing tactic for businesses that may not have the same notoriety as some of the establishments downtown.

Llewellyn said he participated in the Name That Tune competition at the 8th Ave. Tavern, which is an establishment he’s never visited.

“It's a good vehicle to get even the old-timers like me out and try new places,” he said.

Another aspect of Snowdown that helps businesses is hosting family friendly events. The festival is often affiliated with drinking and partying, which may bring in large sums of revenue for the bar and restaurant scenes.

When businesses offer events that are accessible to all ages, it can expand their reach. Llewellyn said there were a lot of family friendly event options this year.

“I really appreciate that there's a lot of kid friendly events going on,” Llewellyn said. “It was a busy and vibrant downtown throughout the whole entire weekend.”

Walsworth said it will be interesting to see how the sales tax data compares to last year with this year being a “full Snowdown.” He said while all of these observations are anecdotal, Snowdown appeared to be a success from a business perspective this year.

“The warm weather definitely helped, because it's been really cold,” Walsworth said. “And it was so nice to have a warm up a little bit during the day. It looked like our businesses were getting good traffic throughout just about all the days of Snowdown and certainly, this past Friday and Saturday.”


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