Asher on Aspen: Family Traditions
Asher on Aspen
The vast majority of locals that I meet in Aspen are transplants. People come from all over the world to see what this little ski town is all about. We live in a melting pot for like-minded individuals who share an affinity for the mountains and the outdoors. Despite all of the culture and liveliness that floods into this town, it’s important to step away sometimes to be reminded of one’s origins. To never lose sight of where you come from. Even though Aspen is the place I’ve called home for the past five years, I will never forget my dear Midwest roots.
Every year at the beginning of June, the Asher side of my family hosts a golf tournament which has been dubbed, “The Asher Open.” What originally started as my grandfather’s birthday party has since turned into a massive family reunion where friends and family come together to participate in a two-day golf tournament. The weekend is filled with golfing, potluck dinners, live music, boating, water skiing, yard games, and mingling with long lost family members. Traditions date back to the mid-1970’s—although the exact year this extravaganza started is debatable depending on which of the six siblings you ask.
The moment I cross the railroad tracks and start traversing down the gravel road that leads to our family cabin on Twin Lakes in Central City, Nebraska, memories start rushing back. Submerged in cornfields as far as the eye can see, this peaceful little lake-side cabin has always been a happy place for me. The usual attendees are family and friends who I typically only see once or twice a year. Most live in the nearby small town, but others travel from all over the country and have had it on their calendar for months.
Golfing is the main focus; however, the tournament is only half the fun. While people are golfing, there is an entire scene unfolding around the lake. My uncle Ed is fishing for largemouth bass with his grandson, my pre-teen cousins are cruising around on the four-wheelers, neighbors are spotted taking a leisurely ride on the pontoon, friends go water skiing on the back of a jet ski, and the Asher Open newbies have just started an intense game of ladder golf. There always seems to be something to keep folks occupied.
In any given year, we have around 65 golfers who enter the tournament. The 9-hole course that my grandpa built is a marvel in and of itself. Though not especially large in size, it’s the character throughout the course that makes it so charming. Tee boxes with our last name proudly stamped on are displayed at each hole. Brightly colored drink holders are planted in the ground and wrapped around the trees. Plastic ducks and alligators float in pond beds scattered throughout and one old-fashioned, giant bell positioned at hole 9 waits eagerly to be rung to alert the other golfers to take cover.
I am not a seasoned golfer by any means, but every year I try my best to participate while still keeping my pride intact. When my golf game deserves even an ounce of praise, it has become an unusual, yet amusing custom to celebrate with a cartwheel. Other teammates of mine like to throw in some toe-touches and the occasional somersault to honor their stand-out moments. The ladies and I like to mix things up a bit by trying to keep the energy light and fun. The guys, on the other hand, are a bit more competitive.
After golfers have played all 18 holes on the first day, a traditional Calcutta auction takes place. This is where golfers bid (auction style) on the golfer or team they think will win the tournament. The trained auctioneer, also a long-time family friend, has been conducting this entertaining gambling saga for as long as I can remember. After each golfer is “bought,” participants scatter so that the band can load in. In the past, we’ve had family and friends step in to entertain the crowd but other years, we have hired a band to take the stress off our musically gifted family members (and trust me, there are many!). The band is always a crowd pleaser and most years, the music doesn’t let up until the late evening hours.
As you might have guessed, this is not your typical family reunion. The Asher Open holds a number of unique, hysterical, decades-old traditions that are usually what make the weekend so incredibly fun. The festivities just wouldn’t be the same without Aunt Jan’s famous margaritas, the infamous late-night pontoon rides, the Saturday evening potluck, the fresh pineapple my Uncle John always brings to pass out on Sunday’s, or the impromptu jam sessions that take over the garage.
Friends have become honorary members of the Asher clan throughout the years, and the number of attendees only continues to grow. As the weekend comes to a close, I always get a little somber having to leave. On what would have been his 92nd birthday, I know that my grandpa is smiling down with pride knowing that this family gathering that he started nearly 50 years ago is still being celebrated today. It’s family traditions like these that will always remind me of where I came from.
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Former race-car driver, current Lewis Cellars winemaker Randy Lewis hosts Aspen dinner alongside chef Byron Gomez as part of the “Aspen Summer Supper Club Series” at 7908.