Annual Winterskol weekend kicks off with ‘Historical Society Lady,’ ‘Cookie Man’
Each year the annual lunch to kick off the Winterskol festival in Aspen has its own twist, and Thursday it came in the fashion of “The Historical Society Lady” and the town’s resident “Cookie Man.”
Nina Gabianelli has given a glimpse into Aspen’s history for years and Mark Patterson has been part of the brotherly duo who created Paradise Bakery, which has become a stop for locals and visitors for decades. They were recognized as this year’s Queen and King for the 69th annual festival.
Using a deep theatrical background, Gabianelli has been leading the Aspen Historical Society’s education and programming and has spent years dressing up as some of the town’s famous characters and going into schools. She also performs in theater companies up and down the Roaring Fork Valley.
“This truly is a moment where I am speechless,” she told the crowd assembled at the St. Regis ballroom.
Gabianelli, who used to perform at some of the Winterskol luncheons when they were held at the old Crystal Palace, wasn’t finished with he Winterskol fun for the day. She spent Tuesday night performing at the Wheeler Opera House as part of the festival’s Aspen History 101 show, which is considered a theatrical crash course in the town’s lore.
Patterson, whose parents were the Winterskol royalty in 2005, spoke about the support from the community and “visitors from all over the world” that he and his brother Danny received since they announced in May the bakery will have to move locations after nearly four decades.
He said then that roughly 250,000 to 300,000 customers roll through the spot on the corner of Galena Street and Cooper Avenue each year.
“This year has been amazing, and it felt so good to have the outpouring from the community after the news got out,” Patterson said after Thursday’s lunch. “We’ve talked to a lot of people. There is no way we will not do something.”
He is not ready to say where their new location might be — they have to be out of the current location by October 2021 — but did say the support from the community has re-energized them.
“We said ‘Well, do we fold up shop and say it was a good 40 years or do we find someplace else to be and continue what we’re doing?’ It gave us some time to think about what we want to do going forward,” he told the crowd. “It’s not about the dough (money) — the only dough we really make is cookie dough. It’s been a time to reflect on the past and look forward. We hope to continue to do our little part to make Aspen special in the future and make it unique.”
Also during the lunch, Craig Melville was honored with the Molly Campbell Service Award for his contributions to Aspen. Melville, whose parents Ralph and Marian were the Winterskol King and Queen in 2009, took over operations of the Mountain Chalet from his parents, who opened the lodge in 1954.
Craig has continued years of service to a number of organizations around the area, including the Aspen Fire Department, and has opened the resort to those in need when called upon.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass was named the nonprofit of the year, and JAS president and CEO Jim Horowitz showed off some updated drawings for the new performance center on Cooper Avenue around the Red Onion.
The business of the year award went to Poss Architecture + Planning and Interior Design, which was founded by Bill Poss in 1976 and has done work around the world from the Aspen-based offices.
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Every summer there comes a particular hike on a particular day when you know you’re seeing the best wildflower display of the year. It is a magical, and bittersweet, day.