(CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.) — Bud Light wants to know whether a small mountain town in Colorado is “up for whatever.” The answer this time from the divided townspeople: maybe, although $10 million might be just enough to swing more support toward the beer-inspired party.
Bud Light, one of Anheuser-Busch’s beer brands, is planning to host a three-day event “of unexpected fun” that will transform part of Crested Butte, Colorado, known for its outdoor activities and music festivals, into a fictitious town of Whatever, USA.
As part of the deal, Anheuser-Busch will donate $250,000 to the town, as a sign of gratitude, but some of the 1,500 residents are not thrilled with the idea of Whatever from Sept. 5-7.
One resident, former Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth, called the $250,000 donation a “paltry and insulting sum.”
“My own view is that this is truly an inappropriate function for a town that has built its reputation so carefully,” Wirth told ABC News. “It should cost them a pretty penny and they won’t even notice it.”
Bud Light’s “UpForWhatever” ad campaign began during the Super Bowl, in which random people on the street, seemingly between the ages of 21 and 35, are whisked off to celebrity-laden adventures. In Bud Light commercials for the town of Whatever, USA, there’s a fake, mustached mayor.
For this specific campaign in Colorado, the company will select 1,000 Bud Light fans across the United States who auditioned with a 10-second video explaining why they should be flown into Whatever, USA. Winners will be notified 48 hours before the trip.
The audition deadline is next Thursday and more than 150,000 people have applied so far.
The town will host a public hearing and council vote Friday about the proposed plans, which include street performers, a parade, music, dancing, closing off the local Big Mine Ice Arena and, of course, lots of Bud Light.
“There are a lot of different opinions in the town,” town manager Ted Crossett said. “There are a lot of people who support it and a lot of people who do not for a variety of reasons.”
Crossett’s staff report about the weekend describes some of the activities, including “stumble upon events, which are low impact activities such as games, low-key races and curiosities. Most would be open to the public.”
“Some would be closed to contestants. Activities would take place on both the street and in private businesses,” the Aug. 23 report states.
The town council has “allowed themselves to be put into this dreadful corner” that has divided the town, Wirth said.
Wirth and other residents decry the council’s working behind the scenes with Bud Light to coordinate such a major event. But Wirth said he was proud of the “democracy in action” during Monday’s hearing at which residents spoke openly with town leaders.
“Crested Butte has every bit of leverage right now to say to Bud Light, ‘We’ll approve your event if you send us a check for $10 million from a multibillion-dollar corporation,'” he said.
As for Anheuser-Busch, it is “optimistic” the town council will vote to approve the Whatever, USA activities, according to a company statement to ABC News.
“We’ve spent several months planning and preparing with the town and local vendors, and hope that Whatever USA’s temporary citizens will get a chance to experience everything Crested Butte has to offer,” the statement reads. “We can’t imagine a better setting for a weekend of unexpected, unparalleled fun.”
David Ochs, executive director at the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News he believes the majority of the 300 active members in the organization support the event. He argues that the event will bring an unknown amount of extra cash to local businesses and the town coffers, as the high tourist summer season comes to an end.
“Keep locals working, keep paychecks coming and keep everything rolling,” he said. “Bud Light has been very good in incorporating retail businesses into the event, but the real benefit might be in the long term: the exposure and marketing of it is what they will see and want to come back to Crested Butte and that’s our bread and butter.”
Kevin McGruther, a town resident of 18 years, attended the most recent hearing about the proposed event Monday. He said he is not arguing for or against the event, but points to the local government’s failure to adhere to its typical town-event application process.
“The issue is the transparency, the preemption of the process and disenfranchisement of the community,” he told ABC News.
Wirth, the former U.S. senator, said if Anheuser-Busch can pay big money, possibly millions, for celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger to play table tennis in a Super Bowl ad, the company should cough up for using the resources of the town and its reputation.
“They paid him Schwarzenegger millions and they’re going to be here ripping up the town for a week for $250,000?” Wirth said. “That gets my indignant juices running.”
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