By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Charter airline passengers leaving a weekend festival in a Colorado mountain town promoting Bud Light beer suffered long delays after a screening breakdown by a private security firm, officials said on Monday.
The "Whatever USA" promotional event, sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, went smoothly until the 1,000 revelers flown in for the promotional event tried to depart Crested Butte on Sunday.
Crested Butte is a former mining town turned ski resort of about 1,500 people located about 125 miles northwest of Denver.
Rick Lamport, manager for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, said the plan was for a private security firm to screen the passengers at a different location and then transport them directly to the airport tarmac, a common practice for charter flights.
Instead, the company got overwhelmed and about 500 passengers had to go through the traditional screening at the airport, he said. "Everyone got underway after about a three-hour delay," Lamport said.
An email message sent to the security company, The Patriot Group, was not immediately returned.
Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said he was told that some passengers tried to take marijuana they purchased at the town's three retail pot shops on board, which also contributed to the delays.
Colorado allows the sale of retail recreational marijuana, but it is illegal to leave the state with pot bought there.
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Ross Feinstein said on Twitter that the agency was called in to assist after Patriot, hired by three charter companies, "failed to adequately screen passengers."
Huckstep said Anheuser-Busch paid the town $500,000 to hold the event, which included painting part of a street blue.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)