Barn appetit at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Rock Bottom Ranch

Charlie Wertheim
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
The barn dinners are served in Rock Bottom Ranch’s open-air pole barn.
Emily Taylor

If you wanted to enjoy one of the barn dinners at Rock Bottom Ranch this summer, you had to be quick.

Tickets went on sale at high noon on July 6, and all six dinners were sold out in 38 minutes, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Development Manager Emily Taylor said.

“I was surprised actually. But I don’t think I should have been surprised because this happens every year. Last year we didn’t sell out completely for all the dinners so quickly but one of the dinners was 58 minutes. … Last year we sold out all the dinners in 60 hours,” she said.

“I got online right at noon because from my past experience they sell out. … The one I wanted sold out in five minutes,” said Jacqui Matthews, 70, of Missouri Heights, who has been attending barn dinners for five years.

On July 7, the wait list for the first dinner had 60 people, Taylor said.

There are some differences this year compared to previous barn dinners, including one that would contribute to a rapid sell-out is social distancing.

The email announcing ticket sales had some fun with that now-familiar term, saying the dinners will be “physically distanced and socially engaging.”

Because of the distancing, there are one-third the usual number of seats this year.

“We only have 40 spots for each dinner. Normally we’ll have 120 spots,” Taylor said.

While many are uncomfortable with group events during the pandemic, physical separation offers a way diners can cope.

Maddi Sorrentino serves guests at last week’s barn dinner featuring Silo restaurant.
Emily Taylor


“We discussed whether it would be safe or not because we aren’t going out that much, but we’re going,” Lynne Feigenbaum, 66, of Carbondale said. She and her husband, Steven Wolff, went to the first barn dinner and have been back twice.

The dinners being in an open-air pole barn can also alleviate some safety concerns. 

“I really have felt no need to go physically to a restaurant … but to me this feels like it’ll be the best way to do it. It’ll be literally out in the field,” Megan Rainnie, 52, of Sopris Village, said. This will be her first barn dinner.

Another difference in this year’s barn dinners is for the first time they feature chefs from local restaurants for two nights each, Thursday and Friday. The menus are not released in advance.

“It’s a surprise. But we are allowing people to choose between vegetarian and gluten-free (alternatives),” Taylor said.

From the perspective of ACES, making money is not the goal of these dinners.

“It’s an experiment this time. Usually with our farm-to-table dinners we make a little, but it’s more of a break-even model to get people to the ranch. … I wouldn’t say we’re doing it to fundraise,” Taylor said.