Budweiser Takes Over Colorado Town for Party Ad
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Budweiser Takes Over Colorado Town for Party Ad


Imagine waking up and stepping outside your door to find your town transformed. Everything from the roads to the streetlamps screams a garish blue. As you rack your brain for where you’ve seen that particular hue before, you spot the awning of your favorite burger joint, now as blue as the rest of the landscape and sporting the Bud Light logo.

For a recovering alcoholic, it’s a nightmare scenario. But for the 1,500 permanent residents of Crested Butte, Colorado, it was simply their end of a deal with Anheuser-Busch. For three days, the Budweiser makers converted the quiet mountain town into the riotous “Whatever, USA.” In return, the town received $500,000.

Up For Whatever

On Friday September 8, Anheuser-Busch’s chartered planes transported 1,000 young adults to Crested Butte for a three-day bonanza of unlimited beer and free concerts. The partiers were chosen from a pool of over 150,000 contestants who submitted videos to prove they were “up for whatever.” The main street, blazing blue, was closed off to those without special company wristbands. Naturally, the goal of all this chaos is a commerical—a sequel to Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad that featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Cheadle and One Direction.

The denizens of Crested Butte weren’t so keen on the makeover. The town, 230 winding, uphill miles from Denver, remains untainted by chain stores and fast food brands. This is the land of craft beer, where slumming it means PBR, not Bud Lite. Not only that, but officials kept the arrangement under wraps until just two weeks before the event. The secrecy, they claim, was intended to prevent outsiders from flooding the town, but the residents were incensed. It took over eight hours of vigorous town hall debate—and a doubling of Anheuser Busch’s initial “donation”—for the final deal to get approved.

“This town is already built for this exact type of event,” Anheuser-Busch spokesman Nick Kelly explained. While I’m sure he’s right that the founders of Crested Butte drew up their town charter with a western remake of Spring Breakers in mind, somehow the residents are under the impression that the town was actually built for them to live in. As if.

Local officials justified the deal by pointing to the revenue and jobs the party would create. Crested Butte’s economy relies heavily on tourism, which is weakest in the fall months. The beer company hired 300 people to help get the town ready for filming, and the half million dollars will be used for an undetermined capital project. But most of the town’s 1,500 people chose to live there for the remote, relaxed, anti-corporate atmosphere that sets it apart from touristy resort towns like Aspen and Vail. To them, hosting a Budweiser ad was the epitome of selling out.

Afterparty at the Airport

While the event itself went smoothly enough, the after party was another story. Many hungover partygoers got stranded in Colorado on Sunday, which surely left a taste in the locals’ mouths on par with two-day-old Bud Lite. At the tiny airport in Gunnison, CO, lines were unprecedented and security screenings couldn’t keep pace with the flight schedule, causing many to miss their connections in Denver. Want to bet some revelers could have been trying to sneak some leftover party favors through security when leaving the mile high state?

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.