Fourth of July in Aspen, past and present |

Fourth of July in Aspen, past and present

A crowd in front of the Hotel Jerome on July 4, 1912, for the celebration arranged by the Crystal City Club. There is a large crowd on the street outside the hotel, which is decorated for the holiday.
Aspen Historical Society |

Fourth of July in Aspen is equivalent to Christmas in most places. Drawing crowds from all over the world to celebrate, the Fourth of July is one of Aspen’s busiest days of the year.

“The Fourth is my favorite holiday here — more than Christmas or any other holiday. And I’ve been in this town for 50 years,” said Erik Klanderud, Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s director of member services.

One of the most special things about Aspen lies not within the city’s rich history, but in its unwavering communal desire to hold on to its history. The city’s efforts to honor its past can be seen everywhere, though perhaps nothing illustrates Aspen’s ability to honor its traditions better than Aspen’s “old fashioned” Fourth of July celebration.

Newspaper archives from the Aspen Historical Society reveal that many of the Fourth activities enjoyed by people in Aspen today and in the late 1800s are not so different.

The city parade, for example, down to its setup and order of participants — beginning with the Aspen Fire Department hose carts — has been a part of the Fourth since the settlement of the city and remains one of the quintessential parts of the celebration, according to Aspen Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshall Parker Lathrop.

Other events that have stood the test of time include the picnic, wheelbarrow races, bicycle races, free concerts and, of course, fireworks. Gathering to spectate or play in a town game is another activity that has lasted through the years, though the sport itself has changed. Today, it’s a rugby match, but baseball was the sport of choice in 1935, according an Aspen Daily Times article from that year.

While some past activities haven’t made the cut — such as the “Competitive Rifle Shooting,” “Double-Hand Rock Drilling Contest” and pony races, as outlined in the June 28, 1900, edition of the Aspen Daily Times, they have been replaced by newer, perhaps more modern activities.

Not surprisingly, electronic music — such as a show featuring “Bald Eagle Bonanza,” which much of Aspen’s younger crowd will attend tonight — did not exist.

While it’s still up in the air on whether electronic music will turn into an annual tradition, the Smuggler Mine’s morning blast — using 50 pounds of explosives — is something that has launched the holiday since the 1970s. Love or hate the sound of a loud boom at 6 a.m., it kicks off Aspen’s Fourth of July.

“We shoot a cannon at 6 a.m., wake everybody up. It’s the Fourth of July,” said Jay Parker, co-owner of Smuggler Mine. “It’s patriotic.”

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