Follow the music for free ice cream on the Fourth of July in Snowmass Village
Aspen’s annual parade is canceled. Fireworks ain’t happening. And the legendary outdoor barbecue where I might tend bar for hours and serve 400-plus friends, acquaintances and smiling strangers is but a distant memory from more social times in 2019. Since most treasured opportunities for fun and revelry are on hold this summer in Aspen, I’m heading to Snowmass for the Fourth of July. At least there will be free ice cream!
On Saturday, July 4, Snowmass Tourism will launch the first-ever “Ice Cream Anti-Social,” a concept born in the spirit of American tradition while upholding social distancing orders due to the coronavirus pandemic. When our new reality made clear that a community concert and celebration in Base Village would not be possible due to restrictions on public gatherings, tourism director Rose Abello pivoted to an endeavor that will take merriment to the people instead: drive-by ice cream delivery.
“The easiest answer (would have been) to say it’s canceled,” Abello said of Independence Day festivities. “Instead we’re challenging ourselves and our event producer partners to see if we can figure it out.”
Abello’s team secured a refrigerated truck from Aspen Skiing Co., commissioned custom signage, and placed an order for 4,000 prepackaged ice cream treats from Clark’s Market. They acquired necessary PPE, signed on drivers, and mapped a route designed to hit every residence, hotel and rental property in Snowmass Village throughout the day. Now folks stuck mostly at home will have something to get excited about.
“My theme this summer: shift happens!” Abello says. “We thought: What parts of the Fourth of July community celebration can we embrace? What parts can still happen? Let’s give them dessert! This is a fun way to celebrate the Fourth of July in a crazy COVID era.”
The logistics of such a mission required some finagling. Most important, Abello says, was making sure that the operation would be inclusive. The team decided against publishing a time-specific route map; instead, approximate stop times are listed on the Snowmass Tourism website event page (see sidebar).
“I talked to some moms and the idea that we tell them, it’s a huge window (of time that) is a nightmare for children,” Abello says, with a laugh. “So, we’ll give guidance on neighborhoods, time blocks, and places to park that are centrally located.”
The truck’s 12-mile journey will span four or five hours. A patriotic playlist will pump from a speaker system mounted on the outside of the truck, which is wrapped in a cheeky illustration of Uncle Sam wearing a mask and holding a melting ice cream cone. (How one consumes an ice cream cone while wearing a mask remains unclear; however, those seeking ice cream must wear a mask to receive a freebie.)
Historically, Snowmass Tourism contracted with Aspen Skiing Co.’s catering and events department and The Sled, a mobile food truck that in wintertime is pulled via snowcat to various on-mountain locations at Snowmass. As the group is ever mindful of sharing space with area restaurants vying for holiday dollars (and the reason why it has opted against a public cookout in years past), The Sled offered free apple pie, strawberry shortcake, and ice cream bars for visitors to enjoy during DJ sets, concerts, and the fireworks display. Now, an ice cream truck crawling the streets of Snowmass dovetails smoothly with pressing concerns about customer contact and food contamination: individually wrapped ice cream snacks, doled out by a dude in a hazmat suit, seems air-tight in terms of safety.
On July 4, the Ice Cream Anti-Social truck will dispense four classic choices: Choco Tacos; red-white-and-blue Bomb Pops; chocolate ice cream sandwiches; and orange Push-Up Pops. These products hark to America’s original ice cream truck, invented in 1920 by Harry Burt, creator of the Good Humor brand. His motorized vehicle in Youngstown, Ohio, was the first to deliver ice cream, and soon, chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick (the Good Humor bar), which was easier and cleaner to sell (and eat) on-the-go.
Though many ice cream parlors were forced to close as “luxury” experiences were pushed off the table during the Great Depression, cheap-to-run ice cream trucks survived and even thrived. Post-World War II, ice cream companies boomed (both of my grandfathers were in the business of ice cream) and the ice cream truck as American icon gained even more traction.
Perhaps coolest for Snowmass: this Ice Cream Anti-Social represents the first crusade. Snowmass Town Clerk Rhonda Coxon confirms that Snowmass Village has never had a dedicated ice cream truck en route since the ski area opened in 1967 (and the town was incorporated in 1977). While many other Snowmass summer events remain in limbo, July 4 is a go: Listen for the music.
“We’re ice cream pioneers,” Abello quips, making crystal clear that optimism guides this novel operation, much like the familiar friendly jingle most of us have heard at some point during childhood. “Let’s keep this tradition of providing sweet treats alive…and keep your party at your house.”
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April has been decreed, for the first time, as “Sonoma County Wine Month” by the vintners and it is a righteous idea, one that should have legs long into the future.