Crested Butte blues: How a mountain town got a Bud Light hangover

Just how long can a Bud Light hangover last?

For the mountain town of Crested Butte, the after effects of a huge infusion of Bud Light are still being felt more than 10 months after Anheuser-Busch took over the town for an international-headline-grabbing event called “Are You Up for Whatever?”

That event involved literally painting the town’s historic main thoroughfare of Elk Avenue Bud-Light blue and turning it into a giant fantasy-party stage for a weekend.

Now, Elk Avenue is still a mess

Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer manufacturer in the world, promised this town of 1,500 that the blue paint covering the street and light poles would all be gone a week after the party.

The company did quickly whisk away 1,200 visiting beer drinkers along with a retinue of musicians, drag queens, minor celebrities and buskers. The hot tubs, the human-sized bowling and beer-pong games, the man-made sandy beaches, the giant blue King Kong and the petting-zoo animals were trucked away within days.

But the three blocks of blue-painted street proved to be a lingering headache.

First, a heavy rain started washing the paint off the roadway before it could be scraped up. Blue water running down town gutters and heading for local waterways did not make residents happy.

Town public works officials decided to try to scrape up the paint. That was a noisy endeavor that created blue-paint dust clouds in downtown and left a bumpy street with blue patches. Bad weather thwarted plans to put a slurry coat of asphalt over the mess last fall.

Winter, and the inevitable ice and snowpack on Elk Avenue, left the project in limbo until spring when more problems caused more delays. First, there was too much rain. Then street contractors were busy on other projects. Next, the town council had a tough time deciding on asphalt or concrete to bring Elk Avenue back to its pre-Bud-Light-blue state.

Several weeks ago, the town hired a Wyoming asphalt company. It began putting a new slurry coat on the street. But, after a series of mishaps and malfunctions, the town fired that company. That left one strip of one lane of Elk Avenue with overlay and the rest with grooves.

The town then decided to wait until after one of the town’s biggest events of the year – the Fourth of July parade on Elk Avenue – to make the next attempt to shake off the final dregs of the Bud Light party.

Anheuser-Busch paid the town $500,000 for using the town for a weekend and doing what marketing experts for the company called “augmentations.” That included fencing off the downtown and building a giant archway over Elk Avenue along with painting the street.

The event irked many Crested Butte residents. Some saw it as selling the town’s soul. Many decried the secrecy associated with the event: City officials kept it hush until two weeks prior. Others thought Crested Butte, with its funky flavor and love of costumed events, was a perfect setting for an over-the-top beer bash.

The street mess has some shrugging “whatever” and others saying, “We told you so.”

Photo credit: Ivy Dawned, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a journalist for more than 40 years, most of that on the Western Slope of Colorado. She worked for The Denver Post for 17 years and currently is freelancing and exploring book possibilities in “retirement.” She likes nothing better than telling the unique, and sometimes quirky, stories of the Western half of the state.


  1. Would like to bring up the fact that us local Elk Av Merchant were not reimburse for any of this we lost Thousands of dollars in business and the Town and Bud Lite didn’t care it was not there problem. We hear this a lot from our Town Council.

  2. If you feel your town council “sold” out the town’s merchants, then maybe you should pay attention when it is time to vote. It really is a business , and if you don’t like the way6 it is ran-get rid of the management. Find people that have the town’s best interest at heart. Then crap like this would become a non-issue.

  3. I myself have not been to CB since this ‘Whatever’ affair, but there are users over on Reddit reporting that this article is basically wrong, and that things have been returned to normal in the town. Does anyone who has recently visited the town care to confirm or deny?

  4. Let’s see, which city council members will be paying environmental fines for blue paint washing into the river? Why does justice never seem to take effect if the people that perpetrated the crime is 1: a politician, 2: a wealthy individual???

  5. I just spent a week in CB (July 3rd-7th specifically) and honestly, the only thing I saw relating to it was one t-shirt in one of the shops. This was my 4th time out in CB (my aunt lives in Gunnison) and I didn’t really notice any difference between previous visits and this one. I ran the Gothic to CB race on the 4th as well, so I was running right down the middle of Elk Avenue for a few blocks…didn’t notice any issues. Not saying people didn’t have problems with it, just saying that it looks like they’re pretty well cleared up (at least, to this tourist’s eye).

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