Bluegrass fest hits sour note in Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Bluegrass fest hits sour note in Aspen

Janet Urquhart

It takes a lot of pluck to propose a bluegrass festival on Aspen Mountain, but a local promoter will try to jump the hurdles set up Tuesday by doubters and critics.

Josh Behrman, general manager of Rocky Mountain Broadcasting and a representative of Bug Productions, has proposed a two-day bluegrass festival on the lower slopes of Little Nell this summer.

Members of Aspen’s Special Events Committee picked apart various aspects of his plan Tuesday. Then, a handful of neighbors on hand to complain about a Skico party in their midst next month gave Behrman’s proposal a chilly reception.

Bug Productions debuted the weekend-long Groovegrass at Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs last year. This year, Behrman said the promoters would like to split the event between Sunlight and Aspen.

“What we wanted to do is split the groove and the grass – make Sunlight the groove concept and Aspen the grass concept,” he said.

Behrman, who heads three local radio stations, is proposing amplified acoustic bluegrass on Aug. 4 and 5, with music from noon to 6 p.m. both days. “It would be Peter Rowan, David Grisman – bands of that genre,” he said.

The stage would be placed above the Summer Road, with the audience seated up the slope in a fenced-in space. Food, beverage and beer sales would take place on the concert grounds, he said.

Behrman said he hopes to sell 2,500 tickets per day and that most of the attendees would come from the Roaring Fork Valley.

No camping is planned in conjunction with the event, he stressed.

Committee members voiced concerns with various aspects of the proposal, especially parking. The 450 spaces Behrman plans to use at Buttermilk, with bus transportation into town, is insufficient, they universally agreed.

“I want to know what you plan to do with those other cars,” said Tim Ware, head of Aspen’s parking department.

Memories of the now-defunct Concert for Harmony, held for a few years at Buttermilk, were clearly still on the minds of committee members. Those events produced traffic and parking snarls along Highway 82.

“I’m not looking to recreate Concert for Harmony. I’m looking to create something new and different for this community,” Behrman said.

“I’m worried about this being subtitled Woodstock on Ajax,” said Jack Crawford, president of the Tipple Inn Homeowners Association, suggesting Behrman consider Buttermilk or Snowmass for the event.

“I might suggest, Josh, that there are other venues that might be better suited. Have you investigated any of them?” agreed Pam Cunningham, general manager of the Aspen Alps.

Joe Raczak, general manager of the North of Nell, suggested Aspen is already jam-packed in early August and doesn’t need a big event drawing people into town.

“Where do 2,500 people go at 6 p.m.? It’s impossible to manage 2,500 people after a day of drinking in the sunshine, in a party atmosphere,” Raczak said.

At the close of the discussion, armed with permit applications and information on Aspen’s noise ordinance, Behrman said he would press forward. “It appears there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved,” he conceded.

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