Aspen Music Fest to charge $50 for Friday and Sunday lawn seating |

Aspen Music Fest to charge $50 for Friday and Sunday lawn seating

Fee for summer 2021 only for decades-old Aspen tradition

Andrew Travers and Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

The Aspen Music Festival and School will charge audience members to sit on the lawn outside of the Benedict Music Tent this summer, organizers announced Thursday.

Seating on the listening lawn — for which people bring their own blankets, chairs and refreshments — has traditionally been a free offering. The reservation fee will only be in place for the 2021 season.

Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School, told members of the Pitkin County Board of Health on Thursday that lawn seating is usually a “free for all,” which is challenging to deal with under COVID protocols.

“It’s especially intense on the lawn, which of course literally has been a free for all. So for this summer only, not for future summers, but for this summer only we’re going to require a reservation system for a spot on the lawn, which will be controlled, managed and distanced,” Fletcher said.

During his presentation Thursday, he did not tell the board that there would be a fee this summer for lawn seating.

The Karetsky Music Lawn will be reserved in 90 distanced pods, each of which can seat as many as four people. Sunday’s Aspen Festival Orchestra concerts and Friday’s Aspen Chamber Symphony concerts cost $50 per pod each night, according to a news release sent Thursday. For all other concerts, the fee will be $25 per show.

Sunday picnics on the lawn are a decades-old Aspen tradition, normally drawing large crowds, while other days of the week are more sparsely attended outdoors. The announcement encouraged patrons to consider sitting on the lawn “at some of the many other wonderful events in addition to Sundays.”

The festival also is delaying its 2021 ticket sales by a week (to May 24), organizers announced, along with new details about seating for the summer concert season.

Seating in the open-air Benedict Music Tent will be separated into vaccinated and distanced sections, with more than 800 seats available per concert. The vaccinated sections will not be distanced and likely will feature separate entrances, aisles and probably bathrooms, Fletcher said Thursday.

Performances will be 90 minutes or less and will not feature intermissions in order to cut down on bathroom lines and other places where people tend to congregate, Fletcher said.

Proof of vaccination will be required for vaccinated sections and the festival will use an HIPAA-compliant app to verify. Masks will be required and the louvered sides will remain open during all events for maximum airflow.

The Music Festival will implement an extensive testing program for staff and students this year, with unvaccinated participants tested frequently and those who are vaccinated also tested, Fletcher said. However, 97% of staff and students coming to participate in the school and festival this summer have been vaccinated, he said.

The Gold, Full, Kickoff and Select Season Passes have been replaced with a 2021 Season pass. The Locals Pass, available with proof of a state-issued ID showing proof of full-time residence in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the Donors Pass will work as they have in years past with few modifications.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. May 24. The season will run July 1 to Aug. 22 and will include daily concerts and recitals, three orchestras performing weekly along with panels and lectures. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 970-925-9042 or online at

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