Partygoers at Saturday afternoon’s Aspen Tour de Rump picnic at Koch Lumber Park have a different account of the incident between Mick Ireland and a man who he says threw punches at the former Aspen mayor.
And although Ireland told The Aspen Times and his Facebook friends that the man had been ranting about the new Aspen Art Museum building before hitting him in the shoulder, the man phoned the Times to say that his reasons for confronting Ireland had nothing to do with the controversial project.
Allen Mayfield, 84, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who was a fighter pilot and a test pilot, said he simply was trying to remove Ireland from the private party because he was uninvited and causing a ruckus.
Mayfield, of the Aspen Glen area, said he was sitting in a circle with about a dozen people when Ireland got to the party and made himself at home. Mayfield is an ex-host of Aspen Tour de Rump, a costumed bicycle outing held annually that starts with a morning ride and closes with a gathering in the park.
Ireland got into it with a female acquaintance, Mayfield said, adding that he didn’t know the other woman. Ireland began directing profanities toward the woman and a few other women at the party, according to Mayfield.
“I addressed his language,” he said. “I told him to leave her alone.”
Mayfield said he has a cast on his foot from a recent operation. He denied reports that he recently suffered a stroke.
“I told Mick Ireland, ‘I don’t think you’re wanted here,’” Mayfield said.
The former mayor and Pitkin County commissioner wouldn’t leave and kept eating the partygoers’ food and insulting people, Mayfield said. So Mayfield said he got up, grabbed Ireland by the arm and started to lead him away from the park.
It was then that Ireland “started to become extremely obnoxious,” Mayfield said, and tried to hit him.
“He threw a misguided punch at me, but I blocked it with my arm,” Mayfield said. “I hit him in the shoulder, one time. I could have cold-cocked him if I had wanted to. I’m not a bully, but the language he was using at our party was not approved by anybody.”
Ireland told the Times on Sunday that whoever hit him landed four punches in his shoulder areas near his biceps but that he was not physically hurt. Ireland said that he never swung a fist at the man, whose identity was unknown to him.
“Everyone was yelling, ‘Throw him out! Throw him out!’ Nobody at that party wanted him there,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield’s story was backed up by Joan Leavenworth, one of the Aspen Tour de Rump’s hosts this year. She described herself as someone who is not anti-Ireland — “I may have even voted for him before” — but acknowledged that the partygoers were largely conservative and not big fans of Ireland, a Democrat.
“I’ve always gotten along with him,” she said. “But Mick crashed the party and was asked to leave over and over. He wouldn’t leave.”
Ireland, Leavenworth said, began arguing with one woman he knew well. Soon another woman made a few cracks about Ireland and his support for the new art-museum project, Leavenworth said. The museum, which opens to the general public Saturday, has been a continual source of community controversy because of its size, approved by Ireland and three other city councilmen in August 2010.
Ireland had a mouth full of food as he began generally uttering profanities toward women at the party, according to Leavenworth. One woman tossed a small drink at him, she said.
“He was being so foul,” she said. “There was an uproar. He started to leave (with Mayfield).”
She lost sight of them for a minute but then went over to where they were standing. She said she didn’t know who attempted to start the fisticuffs.
“Some people said they saw Mick swing first,” Leavenworth said. “I tried to neutralize things. I held Al back. Mick went over and sat near a tree and kept eating.”
Some 15 minutes later, some other partygoers were able to persuade Ireland to leave, she said.
Ireland said he did not report the brouhaha to police because he was reluctant to add to the problems of the man who punched him, having been told that he had recently suffered a stroke.
Leavenworth said someone at the park phoned police but that when they arrived, Ireland was gone. She said partygoers told police the incident was over and everything was OK.
“This is the first time anything like that has happened at our picnics in 26 years of Tour de Rump,” Leavenworth said.
Ireland did not return phone or email messages left by the Times on Tuesday afternoon.