City of Aspen takes over production of Fourth of July festivities
For over a decade, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association produced day-long event; city is taking over based on public feedback
After almost two decades of producing the Fourth of July festivities in Aspen, the chamber of commerce has stepped away and the city government has claimed control of the community celebration.
The city this year did not renew a contract that has been in place since 2005 with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for the Fourth of July festivities.
That’s partially because the city wants to act directly from the feedback it received last year when it conducted public outreach on what people liked and disliked about recent years’ festivities and what they wanted to see differently.
“We had never done outreach about the Fourth with the community,” said Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of marketing and special events. “COVID made us rethink everything and we hope the community sees what we heard.”
In 2020 there was no event at all, and last year there was no parade due to the monthslong planning that needed to occur, and that’s when capacity restrictions were still in place.
The “community village” and street closures that come along with it will occur from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The parade, which will follow the traditional route through downtown, will be much shorter this year, with only one hour dedicated to it.
“We heard that it was too long, they wanted something with a start and an end time,” Lesley said, adding the parade will start at 11 a.m. and end at noon.
The city’s citizen-based Commercial Core and Lodging Commission selected parade entrants and limited the number of them.
The CCLC also will jury the parade and judge entrants, which in the past was led by ACRA.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who served on a committee last year to reexamine the Fourth of July festivities, said he’s glad the city has the reins.
“I don’t disagree with the direction of taking ACRA out of the Fourth of July,” he said, adding in recent years it got too crazy and commercialized. “We are trying to make this a community event.”
Debbie Braun, president and CEO of ACRA, said the agency responded to people’s desire to participate in the parade.
“I think ACRA didn’t make it commercial, we accepted applications from community members who wanted to express themselves on Independence Day,” she wrote via email. “We chose to support everyone who wanted to participate.”
The city increased its role in the Fourth of July celebration in 2011 because of public safety and has been partnering with ACRA in that realm ever since.
But this is the city’s first role as producer. As such, it will cost the municipal government more money than in previous years.
City staff earlier this year successfully requested the ongoing, unobligated balance of $43,000 in the mayor and council budget for tourism and marketing, as well as an ongoing appropriation increase of $37,000.
That money is being used primarily for evening entertainment, including a laser light show in Wagner Park, as well as outreach and marketing, and new components and enhancements to the traditional Fourth of July celebration.
Lesley said the day is designed around the top themes that came up in people’s survey answers: “old-fashioned,” “community” and “patriotic.”
She said look to the sky at about 10:55 a.m., just before the parade, to see the American flag being displayed by a team of skydivers. The event is weather dependent, Lesley noted.
Community booths will be set up along Hyman Avenue from Hunter Street to the pedestrian mall, with the Aspen Art Museum taking over with its “Calle Artistica” from Hunter to Spring streets.
The museum will bring together local artists for hands-on arts projects, as well as performances, interactive musicians and food.
Across town at Sister Cities Plaza near Wagner Park, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklorico will perform at noon, 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m.
The Aspen Fire downtown station will be hosting a party throughout the day, as will the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club at Koch Park from noon to 3 p.m.
The Aspen Music Festival Fourth of July concert will follow at 4 p.m. at the Benedict Music Tent.
The city will honor the public sentiment around many of the traditional elements of the parade, including the Bergman family’s calliope, kids’ bike decorating and participation, classic cars, veterans and first responders, to name a few.
Due to drought conditions, there will be no fireworks over Aspen and instead there will be a laser light show at 9:15 p.m. at Wagner Park.
The day starts at 8 a.m. with the 5K Boogie’s Buddy Race and 1-mile family and canine walk.
“It’s a whole day’s worth of activities, so plan accordingly,” Lesley said, adding public transportation is advised as many streets are closed throughout the day. “Buses fill up quickly. Especially with the driver shortage, there are not as many running.”
For the Aspen Police Department, the Fourth of July is one of three days of the year (including New Year’s Eve and Halloween) when it is “all hands on deck” when everyone must work.
Officers log more miles on bicycles that day than they do in cars, according to Lesley.
Her team has been busy for the past few weeks preparing for Monday’s celebration.
They’ve been placing over 850 “no parking” signs along the detour and parade routes, as well as procuring over 60 barricades and 3,600 linear feet of fencing.
“Enjoy the town, there is a little something for everybody,” she said.
A pitch led by Theatre Aspen’s executive director to expand the organization’s facilities and create a permanent underground venue got mixed reviews from officeholders and board members Monday.
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