Denver fans hit travel bump
Anyone leavin’ on a jet plane, bound for the annual gathering of John Denver fans in Aspen, won’t be able to land at the airport on Oct. 6.The planned closure of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on Wednesday, Oct. 6, has garnered a critical reaction from at least one of the late singer/songwriter’s fans.”That is going to screw up the whole weekend,” fumed Mary Ledford. “I don’t see why they can’t do it the week before.”Ledford, who fired off a letter to The Aspen Times regarding the situation (see page A11), will be traveling from Maryland for the local activities that will mark the seventh anniversary of Denver’s death. The former Aspen resident died piloting a plane off the coast of California on Oct. 12. Since then, a growing legion of fans has flocked to town to pay tribute to Denver each October.They have organized a weekend of activities, starting Thursday, Oct. 7, including functions at the Mountain Chalet, the John Denver Sanctuary near Rio Grande Park and at Windstar, which Denver co-founded in Old Snowmass.Also that weekend, the Wheeler Opera House will host its annual Tribute to John Denver concerts on Oct. 8-9, featuring the singer’s former band members and colleagues. The special guest this year will be Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, a folk trio that had one of its biggest hits with the Denver-penned “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”On Oct. 11 at the Wheeler will be another concert, Celebrate John Denver with John Adams and Friends.Aside from his fans – Ledford guessed some 1,200 to 1,500 people come from across the country and around the world – she is worried some of the concert performers will be affected by the airport closure.But Nida Tautvydas, executive director of the Wheeler, said Friday she was unaware of the airport closure and does not expect it to interrupt the travel plans of the tribute show performers.”As far as I know, most of the performers will be in town before the 6th,” she said.Ledford said she will fly to Texas and then drive with a friend to Aspen, but another friend who planned to fly into Aspen on Oct. 6 to meet them has been forced to make other arrangements.”That is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.The airport will close at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5 and remain closed all day on Oct. 6 to accommodate an upgrade of its electrical system, according to Jim Elwood, airport director. The airport will reopen the morning of Oct. 7.Electrical lines run beneath the airport’s sole runway, forcing the closure, he said.”Unfortunately, it has impacted some folks and we’re sorry about that,” Elwood said.Airport officials worked with the airlines and Aspen Base Operations in selecting a date that would affect the fewest travelers, he said.”We found the slowest week of the fall and then picked the slowest days of the week to impact,” he said.The few individuals who made travel reservations on Oct. 6 before the date was blocked out were offered the choice of alternate travel dates or flying into another airport, according to Elwood.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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