Hitting the brakes

This year’s Taste of Durango, the premier food festival held every spring, has been canceled, with its future uncertain.

For the past few decades, Taste of Durango has brought together local restaurants and breweries to celebrate the town’s culinary scene. For a full day, vendors set up tents along Main Ave., taking over downtown.

Taste of Durango, however, has run into some challenges in recent years. In 2020 and 2021, the festival was canceled because of the pandemic. When the event returned last year, many attendees complained about long wait lines, a complicated wristband process and lack of vendor/food availability.

Durango’s Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association organizes Taste of Durango. Board President Dave Woodruff said many of these issues led to the cancellation of this year’s event.

For starters, Woodruff said it takes months of work from a volunteer board to put on a logistically complicated festival that shuts down Main Ave. On top of that, rising food costs, labor shortages and all the other challenges to the food industry made participation difficult for restaurants.

All this had a domino effect – staffing shortages caused fewer vendors to participate, which led to longer wait times and fewer food options. Taste of Durango also tried implementing a wristband system last year that did not work out as intended, Woodruff said.

Woodruff is leaving the board at the end of the month as he pursues a bid for Durango City Council. He said, however, that the break this year will allow the new round of event organizers to rethink the festival.

“Let’s let it rest and see if we can wrap our heads around how we can make it a better and more efficient event,” he said.

In the meantime, Woodruff said it’s important to start thinking of other ways to celebrate the local culinary scene. For instance, the CRA is working with Visit Durango and Purgatory Resort to put on a restaurant week in April.

As for the future of Taste of Durango, that’ll be up to the new board, Woodruff said. The current model, obviously, is not sustainable.

“It’s a tough question to answer, honestly,” he said. “I don’t think it should be put to bed indefinitely, but for now, this break will give the board time to reevaluate what works and what doesn’t, and if it’s realistic to pull off.”

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