Aspen Fourth of July: Parade, fun and festivities mark Independence Day |

Aspen Fourth of July: Parade, fun and festivities mark Independence Day

Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times

On a day marred by a significant wildfire downvalley, Aspen’s annual Fourth of July parade went full steam ahead Wednesday. It was all part of a jam-packed day in celebration of the red, white and blue.

The party got started at 8 a.m. with the 32nd annual Boogie’s Buddy Race, a 5-mile foot race that begins and ends at Rio Grande Park. Carbondale’s Sean Van Horn was the overall race winner, while fellow Carbondale resident Kate Phillips was the top woman.

While the 18th annual America’s Birthday Carnival was going on at Paepcke Park, the Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade got underway around 11 a.m. The parade began on Main Street and wound its way through downtown Aspen, with Wylie “Joe” High serving as this year’s grand marshall.

While last year’s parade was highlighted by the presence of NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and his doughnut spinning No. 48 stock car, Aspen’s firefighters got things going in 2018, and rightfully so considering what is going on with the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt. As per usual, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong could be seen hanging out at the head of the parade before it got underway.

Armstrong was the only big-name athlete in the parade. Representing “The Freaks,” Aspen’s notorious ski gang, 2018 Olympic ski racer Wiley Maple was all in with his wolf hat. Nearby could be found 2018 Olympian Alex Ferreira, who like Maple is an Aspen local. Ferreira won Olympic silver in ski halfpipe while in South Korea.

The roughly 90-minute parade had a little of everything, although some of the participants went the extra mile, as noted by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. ACRA announced six awards Wednesday, with Valley Veterans Parade Committee being named most patriotic and the most outrageous being the “Mad Max Burning Metal Supersized Vehicle,” which didn’t have an organization listed.

Aspen Valley Hospital was the most humorous, Aspen Gymnastics had the best children’s float, The Farm Collaborative had the best animal float and the best music went to the Aspen Music Festival and School: Percussion Ensemble.

Other daytime events included the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s annual community picnic at Koch Lumber Park, the Aspen Music Festival and School’s free concert at the Benedict Music Tent, and the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department’s block party and fundraiser in front of its fire station on Hopkins.

The night’s highlight was scheduled to be a one-of-a-kind drone light show above Aspen Mountain, put on by Great Lakes Drone Co. in lieu of fireworks. However, about an hour before its scheduled 9:15 p.m. start, company owner Matthew Quinn decided to cancel the show because of “rapidly deteriorating weather conditions caused by the Basalt fire.”

Quinn had said Tuesday that conditions need to be nearly perfect for the show to go on, and things such as high winds, birds or, in this case, smoke could bring it to a halt.

“While conducting our routine operation risk assessment, we found conditions to be unfavorable to flight operations and spectators,” Quinn wrote in an email. “The fire in Basalt has created increased instability, paired with the formation of convective clouds causing a severe and unnecessary risk with increased and unpredictable winds aloft.”

ACRA said “there is a possibility” the show will take place this evening, if weather conditions improve. Otherwise, the show would be rescheduled for a later date.