Aspen Deaf Camp revives picnic, live music |

Aspen Deaf Camp revives picnic, live music

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Times file

OLD SNOWMASS – The Deaf Camp Picnic, at one time a prominent event on Aspen’s entertainment calendar, returns Sunday, setting the stage for even bigger things next year.

The Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (yes, its name has changed since the last picnic took place at least a decade ago) is in the midst of not only rejuvenating the popular fundraising event, but expanding its facilities and its programming. There’s a lot going on at the 17-acre campus, tucked into a spectacular setting along Snowmass Creek in Old Snowmass, and it’s time to reacquaint the public with the camp, said Executive Director Lesa Thomas.

Sunday’s event is dubbed Here to Hear. The idea is to encourage attendees to walk, run or ride a bike to the camp, as there is no parking at the camp or on the road. (Blazing Adventures shuttles will be available from the Brush Creek intercept lot, starting at 11 a.m.) Participants are urged to go online at and register to raise at least $100 to benefit the camp, but one can also simply show up and pay a $40 admission.

The event, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature a barbecue and beverages, activities for children and what has always been a mainstay of the picnic – live music, starting at noon.

This year’s headliner is Iowa singer-songwriter Greg Brown, a well-known name and recording artist on the folk circuit, along with Bo Ramsey, a guitarist with whom Brown performs regularly. Also on the bill is 9-year-old Boulder sensation Jaden Carlson, a singer-guitarist who played with Michael Franti at Belly Up Aspen last year.

Music at the picnics is legendary. The late John Denver regularly volunteered his talents for the event, joined over the years by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Ricky Skaggs and members of the Eagles. Crowds flocked to the picnic for the concerts.

Michael Faas, coordinator of the event, said he’d heard of the Deaf Camp Picnic before he moved to the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It was always this super, best-thing-that’s-ever-happened kind of thing,” said Faas, a freelance photographer who frequently shoots pictures for The Aspen Times.

In years past, the picnic took place at the base of the Campground lift at Snowmass, just up the road, but the camp wants to host the public at its facilities this year, Thomas said.

“Come see the Deaf Camp again,” she said. “I don’t think people have been here lately. We want them to see the camp is still here.” (It’s at 4862 Snowmass Creek Road, by the way.)

Next year, organizers hope to move the picnic to Fanny Hill at Snowmass, up the music quotient, and combine it with a hike-a-thon at the ski area.

“We want to bring back the Deaf Camp Picnic in a very big way,” Thomas said.

Meanwhile, back at the camp itself, the last of its summer sessions wrapped up Friday, though the facilities now host programming year-round. There are opportunities for both youths and adults to attend programs.

The camp, founded in 1967, is launching a capital campaign to build a new bunkhouse, hoping to double its current capacity – it can now accommodate 36 campers, plus staff.

And, it will hire a winter tutor who is adept at sign language and can also ski or snowboard, to escort youths on the slopes.

In October 2011, the camp plans to host a month-long program aimed at teaching job skills to young adults – showing them how to interview for a job with the help of an interpreter, put together their first resume, open a bank account and learning something of the work environment, Thomas said.

The camp would also like to reduce its dependency on donations, she said, but 90 percent of its campers require some type of scholarship assistance to attend. Youngsters come from around the country and occasionally beyond, but mostly from within Colorado, to attend camp programs.

The community, however, has long had a role in supporting the camp, donating money and labor. According to Thomas, 75 people showed up for this year’s annual work weekend, preparing the facilities for the season.

The picnic benefits the camp, but it’s also about drawing in the community.

“We serve children from all over, but the community is what keeps us afloat,” Thomas said.

Go to for more about the camp and its programs.

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