Jim Wear: Veterans Slighted
November 3, 2009
On behalf of the Salute to American Veterans Rally Committee, please accept the following sentiments:
First and foremost: Many thanks to all of the Grand County residents who have been so supportive of the Salute to American Veterans Rally and our efforts over the past three years. Of course, we send all respect out to the United States Veterans of the Valley. You and yours are why we have worked hard for 23 years, and will continue to persevere.
We are all disappointed at the comments made in this paper by Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce President Lance Gutersohn. We regret that Lance felt the need to characterize the event as such a failure, and view his statements as exaggerated and inaccurate.
We have heard from many merchants, lodgers and restaurateurs who had a great business weekends during the Rallies.
Gutersohn stated that the “main lodging sponsor only sold 10 rooms.” Here is the truth: The Official Rally lodging sponsor – Beaver Village Condominiums – was never contacted by the Chamber after this year’s event. The BVC filled all available units to Rally goers this year. And have also “sold out” the previous two Rally weekends as well. We have yet to speak to any merchant who was contacted by the Chamber to see how they did.
Many veterans and motorcyclists who have read the article take exception to Gutersohn’s characterization of bikers as an audience who “do not stay,” and “do not fill restaurants, shops and lodging.” A single motorcycle group from Kansas has filled the Vintage Hotel at the Resort for the past 3 years. As well, the Winter Park Pub had their best weekend all summer during the Rally.
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Contrary to Gutersohn’s statement that, “August is a popular time of year for tourists in Winter Park and the Veterans event kept away much of the regular business,” the lodgers and business owners we contacted stated that the Veterans Rally was the best and only mid-August event that has been successful in the past 20 years.
Catherine Ross validated that the Veterans Rally is held on a “back to school” weekend, which would normally be void of much tourist traffic. She also told the Rally Committee that there were more people in town during the 2007 event than had EVER been in Winter Park for ANY event in the past, including the Jazz Festival, which will be funded by the Chamber in 2010 to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
Perhaps the Chamber should consider using the $30,000 earmarked for the 2010 Veterans Rally and do something to Honor this Nation’s Heroes, rather than spending it on yet another afternoon music event. Just a thought.
The Rally Committee regrets that some individuals in the Valley have been disappointed with the event and our performance. We are here to serve and honor our heroes in United States Veterans and those who protect our freedom. For us the Rally has been “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” for the past three years and we again thank the residents and supporting businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and the Town Council of Winter Park for the opportunity.