Aspen, Carbondale set to welcome Jimmy Carter |

Aspen, Carbondale set to welcome Jimmy Carter

It took less than an hour for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s planned talk Tuesday night in Carbondale to sell out.

About half of the 200 seats at the Thunder River Theatre were already spoken for before tickets went on sale to the public, allotted to benefactors and frequent attendees. The rest were snapped up as soon as the email announcement went out.

“We could have sold a thousand tickets,” said local philanthropist Jim Calaway, who was instrumental in bringing the former president and first lady to Carbondale. “This is a big, big happening for our little village.”

The Roaring Fork Cultural Council has had several illustrious speakers in the past, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, but never a former commander in chief. Bill Clinton golfed at River Valley Ranch in 2001, but didn’t make any public appearances.

The Carters arrive in Aspen on Tuesday in a private jet, courtesy of Alpine Bank President Bob Young, in time for an afternoon event at the Aspen Institute. The Carbondale event begins at 6 p.m. sharp, and is expected to last for roughly an hour before the Carters head to Vail.

“To have a past president of the United States and first lady here at our theater is pretty amazing,” said Thunder River Theatre director Lon Winston.

Winston has been inundated with calls for tickets, and has faced some frustration from those unable to find a seat.

“It was very, very difficult to please everybody and make sure people didn’t feel left out,” he said. “I think that most people understood.”

Winston countered the idea that the event could have been moved to a bigger venue.

“A huge component is the intimacy of our theater. They’re right there. You feel like you’re in a living room,” he said.

Moreover, the Thunder River Theatre’s connections and volunteer base made the event possible at a low, $20 price point.

“I don’t want events at the theater — whether it’s Jimmy Carter or a play — to be so expensive that it’s only for one demographic,” he said.

The speech will be broadcast live on KDNK, at 88.1, 88.3 and 88.5 FM throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and western Garfield County.