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Crisis can generate creative solutions. Chaffee County has been nominated for a 2021 Governor’s Award for a community tourism initiative known as the Love Auction, created during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to support county businesses. The Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative acknowledges an activity, event, or project undertaken by a community or region to promote tourism in Colorado. The winner will be announced at the 2021 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference November 3–5, 2021, at the Pueblo Convention Center.

“Where many saw the sheer bleakness with all nonessential services and lodging closed, [Chaffee County Visitors Bureau Marketing Director] Scott Peterson saw an opportunity in building a campaign to help our small businesses reap some funding in a unique and highly successful manner,” said Salida Chamber of Commerce Director Lori Roberts. “The Love Auction was built around being user-friendly where businesses could submit items online, and for the consumer, it was as easy as well.”

The Chaffee County Visitors Bureau, Salida Chamber Of Commerce, Salida Business Alliance, and Buena Vista Chamber Of Commerce partnered to create an online auction and storefront for businesses in Chaffee County to sell gift cards, products, and services when the county quite literally shut down amidst the challenges of COVID-19. “I believe in the end, 2,017 different items were sold ranging from gift cards to art and even furniture. Although the Chamber(s) pushed the auction, along with the Bureau and SBA, it was not limited to any relationship other than being from the area with a need,” explained Roberts. “This was for everyone to partake if they wished. I recall getting calls from local artists stating that this campaign saved them that month, saying it was a golden opportunity that they were extremely grateful.”

Local furniture maker Gary Hand was glowing in his commendation of the effort. “It was wonderful to have an opportunity to sell a couple pieces of furniture. People really stepped up and bid on my pieces — some of my big pieces — and it was such a positive experience,” said Hand.  “Everyone was so friendly and helpful to we small businesses, it was inspirational. The Chamber set it all up, they built the website, and it was such a boost for us economically at such a dark time. I can’t commend them more.”

Roberts also called out the effort by Salida Business Alliance leader Angel Rowell, who led the communications and accounting for the businesses and the purchasers, which solidified the workings of the live auction. The online auction went live just three days after the concept was proposed. It ran for 10 days and generated $116,514.88 in revenue during the dark days of the shutdown, which is normally a winter tourist high season. From start to finish, money was in the hands of the businesses within 15 days, and 100 percent of sales went directly back to each business.

According to Roberts, “During and after the completion of the auction, I had chambers and organizations from around the state and then some, that wanted to know how this went and how they too could produce something. Really, there were no secrets. It is like it was a recipe for other communities to help themselves.” She added that Peterson was invited to speak on a panel at the Governor’s conference about COVID-19 business relief, which demonstrates the appeal of the county’s approach. The Governor’s Awards for Outstanding Colorado Tourism Efforts is open to individuals, private businesses, and non-profit organizations offering a tourism product or service in Colorado.

All entries must promote tourism to or within Colorado.

  • Well received by market constituents
  • Utilizes coalitions and/or partnerships
  • Demonstrates creativity and innovation • Contributes to tourism and economy in community/region/state
  • Showcases the work your organization undertook in 2020 to serve as the go-to resource for COVID-19 restrictions, health and safety best practices, etc. for residents and visitors alike.
  • Entries should focus on how small and local businesses were supported through 2020 in their communities, as well as any other programming created.