On Friday, Sept. 5, Anheuser-Busch painted Crested Butte blue as part of the kick-off to their “Up for Whatever” ad campaign. Many residents were not thrilled with the weekend takeover for filming the commercial and the bright “Bud Light Blue” laid down on Elk Street, the main route through the historic downtown. The town is still blue three weeks later, as the street that was supposed to be returned to black by the following weekend is still blue today.
The controversy began over what has been described as secret negotiations between Crested Butte town leaders and the beer giant. Anheuser-Busch paid $500,000 to the small ski community to essentially rent the town for two days, turning the historic downtown into “Whatever, USA.” Elk Street was closed and painted blue, and a sand volleyball court, a blue gorilla, a huge blue cowboy boot and a giant director’s chair were installed. About 1,000 revelers were flown into town for the big event.
The commercial, filmed in the town of 1,500, is a sequel to the Bud Light Super Bowl ad “Up for Whatever.” Crested Butte, more of a craft beer town with no chain stores or fast food restaurants, seems an unlikely location for a Bud Light commercial. The home of art galleries, artists and second-home owners can only be reached by one paved highway or two dirt roads, all over mountain passes.
Problems began almost immediately, when the production ran out of the wrist bands that gave residents admission to the event. Paper permission slips were handed out to those who worked in the party zone but could not access their businesses because they did not have bands. There appeared to be no shortage of bands, however, for the extra fans that were flown in to be “citizens” of Whatever ,USA.
Then there was the blue paint. Promoters for the event had promised to pay to turn Elk Street back to its original color, but before the black overlay could be put down heavy rains started washing the blue off, sending Bud Light Blue running down side streets and splattering onto people’s vehicles. The weekend after the event Rodney Due, Crested Butte Public Works director, put workers to the task of scraping up the paint, generating more complaints about noise and blue paint dust. This weekend the road, which reopened five days late, is still blue, and gouged as well.
Due said that he is glad it rained, as it showed the paint was not okay. As soon as he found the paint was running and getting on vehicles he had booms put down around the storm drains and set up an account at True Value hardware to allow blue-splattered vehicles to get washed. With the paint washing away, Due said they realized they could not just cover it up with a seal coat with sand mixed in, as originally planned, because the slurry would not adhere to the road. The only option appeared to be to scrape the blue off before repaving.
Anheuser-Busch is footing the bill for the extra cost of returning the blue street to black, an extra $30,000 to $40,000. Three weeks after the Budweiser commercial filming Crested Butte remains blue, what Due calls a disappointing end to an event that went off well. He says the problem originated with the event promoters using a different type of paint than the street-striping paint that had been promised.
By Beth A. Balen