When it comes to being a popular Western Slope summer destination, Montrose is officially on the map and welcoming more and more visitors each year, city director of communication and tourism Lisa L. Kuczmarski explained.
“Montrose, because of our location and the airport here, we see tourism year-round. It’s a healthy stream,” she said, adding that visitation has been “increasing year over year” recently.
The ongoing, $37 million airport expansion project, which will nearly double the current 40,000-square-foot terminal, is expected to be completed this year.
Summer bookings are up 5 percent as well, Colorado Flights Alliance (CFA) CEO Matt Skinner explained.
“We’re very excited about the airport improvements. Really, it’s catching up with a lot of the demand that’s already there and rightsizing the airport for it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to what’s going to be one of the coolest airports in the Rocky Mountain West.”
Montrose Regional Airport’s daily summer schedule features flights to and from Denver via Southwest and United, Dallas (American Airlines), and Houston and Chicago (United). CFA tracks airline numbers for the Telluride destination, which includes Montrose airport traffic. During the summer, marquee events like June’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival (12,000 daily attendance capacity) and Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in September (9,000) are popular times for flights. Such gatherings, which typically sell out well in advance, result in a gush of visitors throughout the region.
“It’s nice to see a summer where both our schedule and demand are looking somewhat like normal,” compared to the traveling troubles of the pandemic, Skinner said.
So this summer is shaping up to be a strong one in more ways than one, as the area is also set to host the annual Fourth of July festivities, Montrose County Fair and Rodeo July 21-29, FUNC (Fun On The Uncompahgre) Fest Aug. 12-13, and numerous concerts and all-ages events over the next few months.
“What we anticipate for tourism is that it’s going to continue to increase, in particular this year versus the last few, because we are back full force with events, and not just city events, but also the community in general is hosting a lot of galas and fundraisers and just reaching out to the community like it was pre-pandemic,” Kuczmarski said. “With all of that in hand, we have a lot of things going on every weekend. Our tourists have a lot of options, not just with what we offer as far as natural beauty — hiking, biking and fishing.”
Of course, that includes the popular Rimrocker Trail, which is a 160-mile stretch that connects Montrose to Moab, Utah. The regional outdoor offerings, from Delta to Ouray counties, proved most popular during the pandemic, Kuczmarski shared, when more people from within the state and Four Corners area stopped in Montrose County for weekend or day trips, which resulted in additional wear and tear on some trails.
“We saw a lot of people come over from the Front Range and visit us from a local standpoint. People within Colorado found us for the first time, as well as people from Utah coming over and checking things out, because they weren’t able to travel too far. It was more regional travel at that time,” she said of tourism the past few years. “Since then, last year and this year, we’ve been seeing a lot more national travel, people coming from other states.”
The areas have been “re-established,” Kucsmarski added, and good to go this summer. County communications director Katie Yergensen added that there is some work being done “on a few areas due to washouts” along the Rimrock Trail, but “detours have been listed on the map for high water situations such as these.”
As far as events, Fourth of July continues to be one of the most popular and busiest throughout the county, especially the evening firework display launched from Sunset Mesa. Katie Schroer, the Montrose Pavilion and community event manager, anticipates anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 people to be in town throughout the day for the festivities this year.
“Traditionally, especially for the fireworks show, we have a lot of community members and people who come from other surrounding towns like Delta or Ouray who watch our firework show,” she said.
The day kicks off at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans Center (4 Hillcrest Plaza Way), before the patriotic parade down Main Street (from Pythian Avenue to Rio Grande Avenue) at 10 a.m. Activities in Cerise Park start at 3 p.m., then the Montrose Community Band and Brown Family Band play the Montrose Rotary Amphitheater. The music starts at 5:30 p.m. For more about the Fourth of July, visit cityofmontrose.org/July4.
Schroer said 6,000 people attended the park event and concert last year.
“It’s hard to say that it’s going to be as large as that (this year), but I would say at very minimum it should be 1,000 to 2,500 people,” she added.
The red-white-and-blue holiday is also a time to showcase the Montrose community and
“an opportunity for our local businesses to shine and participate in our community,” according to DeVerna Rogers, the city’s marketing and tourism manager.
“We had people calling us in April asking when they could register for the parade. It’s just a fantastic time for people to get together and highlight the things that they love and do for our city,” she added. “ … When you get over to the park, it’s a wonderful time for families to spend time together and have that opportunity to feel that Montrose, country hometown feel that we all love so much.”
The Montrose Visitor Center at 107 S. Cascade Ave. also received a facelift earlier this year, including a new ADA-compliant lift. People can check out the new digs on July 1 during the Visitor Center Summer Celebration Sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., during which new Montrose-branded apparel will be unveiled. Other than free snacks and coffee, select items are set to be 50 percent off and there’ll be a drawing to win exclusive Montrose gear and goodies. The sale will continue through July 8.
The visitor center welcomes up to 4,400 people annually, Rogers explained, and so far this year, nearly 2,300 people have checked out the center’s events section online.
“Along with the city events that we host, we also advertise for any business, any nonprofit, anybody in town who wants to promote their events,” she said of the webpage.
For more information about listing an event on the website, go to visitmontrose.com/events.
Justin Criado is a freelance writer and editor based in Telluride.