People come to Utah this time of year to take advantage of the powder on the slopes.
Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, wants them to also come for "EVE," the city-sponsored festival that falls between Christmas and New Year's in downtown Salt Lake City.
"I think 'EVE' is something we can add, something other communities have not done, or maybe don't want or need to do," said Mathis. "We want to have people think of us as a vacation destination between Christmas and New Year's. This event can do that, and is relevant for our hospitality community as well as downtown's business community."
Business tends to boom at the ski resorts during this time frame, but downtown hotels, which cater more to business travelers who tend to stick close to home for the holidays, have fewer visitors this time of year.
"And there is all this skiing no more than 30 minutes away from this nice downtown area," said Mathis. "So we are trying to create, with this festival, a compelling reason to have people choose Salt Lake, as opposed to Aspen or Vail, for an urban ski experience. They can ski during the day at the resorts stretching from Powder Mountain clear down to Sundance, and then come back downtown at night for this amazing international festival."
Not 'First Night'
The city started promoting a completely alcohol-free New Year's Eve event, known as "First Night," 16 years ago. "EVE" differs from its predecessor in a few ways, said Mathis, one being that beer is now available from select vendors.
" 'First Night' had a brand that was very family-centric. We have broadened that a little. So you can get beer now -- it is available to people who want that.
"Plus, there are lots of restaurants in the area, so people have that option as well. And along with that, there are still many locations and events that are alcohol-free."
The biggest difference remains the multi-day aspect, which began last year.
As with last year, events began on Dec. 29 and 30. Fireworks close the festival as the new year rolls in.
"Even in the middle of the big recession last year, we had a great response and expect more and better this year."
Mathis said organizers learned a few things last year as well. They are hoping those who were not fond of wandering around to various venues will appreciate the entertainment being consolidated in a one-block area.
Mathis also notes that 50 percent of the activities take place inside the Salt Palace, so that attendees can readily chase off the chill of midwinter.
"Last year we had four sites and 14 venues in all, but we have combined them into one location now. This year, everything is located on West Temple and the Salt Palace, right next to Temple Square -- which is hosting its own Eve activities for all three days as well."
Jump, jive and wail
Outdoor events include a fire and ice sculpture garden (fire dancing included), as well as dozens of top ski and snowboard athletes conquering a 150-foot long jump, made of 50 tons of snow hauled in from the resorts.
Mathis laughed. "Normally, we spend time trying to get the snow off our streets, but this year, we are bringing it in."
You can also have yourself a ball in the Palace's ballroom.
"We have 211 giant beach balls, and we'll have a DJ in that room hosting a giant ball party. And we have Bounce Town, with inflatables and obstacle courses for kids and adults. It's a lot of fun."
Tribute bands will also be featured in an epic Salt Palace battle, with groups representing KISS, Poison and Ozzy Osbourne facing off for top honors. Local groups, including Feel Good Patrol and Cub Country, will also be performing for the crowds.
"We are excited for this year, and only see trying to make this bigger with each passing year," Mathis said. "We want to make it something that can appeal to everyone, because it breaks my heart when I feel people don't have a connection with that downtown area.
"It really is an amenity that belongs to everyone in the region. This event creates an opportunity to bring your family downtown to a very affordable urban experience in the capital city."