Aug 042009
 
Authors: Nic Turiciano

As cars flooded Fort Collins parking lots this weekend, hoards of festival-goers of all ages swarmed the streets of Old Town for the annual New West Fest.

Much like years past, the entertainment-oriented festival featured live music, food and niche vendors and a country-style fair. But perhaps the most important aspect of the Fort Collins festival — especially in today’s economic state — was the price of attendance: free.

“It’s incredibly important for families, especially because it’s free. For a family of four, you can’t beat it,” said Kristina Hall, Fort Collins resident and mother of two.

“It’s difficult to justify spending money for the family to go to events like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, so this is perfect.”

The festival, which ran from Friday to Sunday, featured nearly 50 Colorado bands, along with nationally known headliners Melissa Etheridge and Ozomatli.

As of Sunday night, attendance for the festival was expected to pass the 100,000 mark, according to event organizer Peggy Lyle.

Much like other Fort Collins festivals, including the Colorado Brewers’ Festival and the Taste of Fort Collins, vendors set up shop, vying for the attention of prospective costumers.

Unlike these other festivals, however, Business Owner Roger Olson said he feels the smaller profit margin from entrance fees attracts vendors.

“With the economy the way it is, the promoters are the only ones making money. Free festivals like this leave some disposable income in the people’s pockets,” said Olson, whose company TD Outdoor Gear was one of the many vendors this weekend.

Pranesh Maskey, owner of Thamel Import Gift Shop in Old Town, said aside from experiencing slower business during New West Fest, he enjoys the festivities.

“Business always slows down during New West Fest, but I enjoy having the music right outside,” Maskey said. “Plus, it brings in a lot of prospective customers who would never have walked in if it weren’t for the festival.”

In recent weeks, however, Old Town business owners have been up in arms over another Old Town event, the Colorado Brewers’ Festival.

As reported in the Collegian, store owners have been upset with “disruptive behavior of Brewfest attendees — violence, vomiting and urination near their storefronts.”

Unlike Brew Fest, New West Fest hosts a more family-oriented environment with a wide spectrum of ages among attendees, like CSU sophomore Chris Pritchard.

Pritchard, who said he enjoyed seeing Ethridge’s set, said, “I’ve been a fan of Melissa Ethridge for years, so this is pretty cool to see. I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Staff writer Nic Turiciano can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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