Aspen electeds hope to be toasting at Food & Wine in fall of 2021
City Council supports Food & Wine, Ruggerfest and Motherlode to be held in September 2021
If event organizers and Aspen officials have their way, the summer of 2021 will end with a bang with three marquee events happening within days of each other.
Aspen City Council on Tuesday directed staff to meet with organizers of the Food & Wine Classic, Ruggerfest and the Mother Lode Volleyball tournament to work together to hold all of the events in September, when presumably the grips of the pandemic have loosened as a COVID-19 vaccine is introduced to the public.
The idea of postponing Food & Wine from when it is usually held in mid-June to mid-September came up during council’s Monday work session.
On Tuesday, representatives from Food & Wine, Ruggerfest and the Mother Lode, along with city officials and the Aspen Chamber of Commerce, discussed logistics.
They assured council members during Tuesday night’s regular meeting that they can work with each other and be flexible to accommodate all of the events.
Food & Wine has requested the use of Wagner Park from Sept. 1 to 15, with event being held from Sept. 10 to 12.
The annual Ruggerfest is scheduled to be held Sept. 16 to 19, but officials said event organizers would be willing to move the dates by one week to accommodate Food & Wine.
The bigger unknown is the Mother Lode, which is scheduled to hold tournament play in Wagner Park from Sept. 3 to 5, with the finals being held Sept. 6 in Koch Park.
“The missing piece in all of this is to figure out a formal arrangement for Mother Lode, … but we feel like we are in a really good place right now that we can put together this amazing month of September and have three signature events to have a great end to the summer,” said Devin Padgett, the producer of special projects for Food & Wine.
Austin Weiss, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said there are other sites that can be used for Mother Lode play, including the fields at the public school campus.
He also noted that Mother Lode hasn’t always played in Wagner Park, and the city has been able to provide alternative locations when that has occurred.
All of the events are longstanding in Aspen: Food & Wine is celebrating its 38th year, the Mother Lode its 48th year and Ruggerfest in its 53rd year.
Food & Wine, which attracts thousands of vintners and chefs and event pass holders, has one of the biggest economic impacts on Aspen throughout the year.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he would like to see all three events happen.
“This is a one-off and a very special 2020 that thank goodness is winding down,” he said, “but I just want to voice my concern and support for the volleyball tournament and all three of these events going ahead.”
Mayor Torre said he wasn’t comfortable with some of the elements in the plan but can live with them if it is a one-time deal, including closing off the park to the public for extended periods of time.
“This is a job of making decisions based on trade-offs,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to (Food & Wine) moving back to its June home and not living forever in September.”
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Renters in Aspen are facing rent increases this year but there are resources and COVID-19 relief available on the local, state and federal levels.