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Free concerts for everyone

David Perry

A little less than a year ago, during the 2004 ESPN Winter X Games, a free public concert featuring The Offspring was held in downtown Aspen. I think that many of you who attended this celebration would agree that this was truly a breakthrough event.Although presented by Aspen Skiing Co. it was made possible by wonderful cooperation from the city of Aspen, the businesses and residents surrounding the concert site and generous funding from the sponsors. Since that test event was so well received, we have hosted the Core Party at Galena and Cooper during Spring Jam and the recent Big Head Todd concert during World Cup. Through the foresight and leadership of John Rigney, our director of event marketing, these events have been complemented by several other concerts held in conjunction with other events at the base of Aspen Mountain and at Snowmass – all free and open to all.The original premise behind these concepts was to bring some much-missed energy and vitality back into the core of Aspen – to provide a focal point for locals to celebrate what is so special about the Roaring Fork Valley in winter and to set us apart from our competition.So far, so good.Now, with continued cooperation and a proven track record, we are ready to up the ante. ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. now want to present three consecutive nights of free concerts during the biggest winter sports gathering in the world outside of the Olympics. The first two nights are titled Après X on the Friday and Saturday nights of the X Games – the third is the AWOL in Aspen event at the base of Ajax on Sunday night. We think these concerts have a chance to be BIG. In working with the city and the Aspen Special Events Committee, the venue recommended for the first two concerts is Wagner Park for three reasons.1. Keep it Fresh – Moving the location of these concerts around is fun and keeps the experience changing (we will definitely be asking to have more street concerts – as soon as March for Spring Jam).2. Convenience – We don’t want to inconvenience too many people or businesses by closing off the streets for two days during a very busy time, so by shifting to Wagner Park we can leave the stage set up and be adjacent to the Cooper and Hyman malls as well as Rubey Park for transportation.3. Capacity – Wagner should comfortably handle the numbers of people that these acts will attract. We are lining up music that will have broad appeal and create a great atmosphere (stay tuned for the artist announcements soon …).We have heard comments questioning the wisdom of choosing this concert venue and that some are concerned that we are doing this just because we want to have a sponsor area. Please know that we hear you and respect your comments. However, this is not why we supported the trial move to Wagner.We could easily host and thank our sponsors in many ways – whether it is in the streets or in the park. However, we very much want to host the event sponsors at these concerts in order to properly thank them for their invaluable support – after all, they help make the whole thing FREE. Aspen Skiing Co. and ESPN will absolutely make certain that the sponsor location is far to the back of Wagner Park, well away from the stage and the free and open area where everyone will be dancing and celebrating.Most of all, I want to thank everyone for their support of this new concept of having free winter concerts, outdoors and in our core. It wasn’t so long ago that exceeding the decibel limits in Aspen was frowned upon. Part of what makes Aspen so great is that the place is founded on innovation, a healthy level of irreverence, an unflagging spirit of celebration and an obsessive pursuit of the coolest possible lifestyle. This is exactly why we want to put on these free concerts – to honor our individual nature and to remind ourselves why we live here.The biggest thanks of all goes out to our friends from ESPN. They have been and continue to be instrumental partners in fueling our winter resurgence. When you see Ron Semaio, Jack Weinert and Chris Steipock or anyone else from ESPN walking down the street – please stop them and say “thanks for being here” from all of us in Aspen/Snowmass.In closing I personally invite each and every one of you to come on out to the Après X concerts and AWOL and party like it’s 2005!David Perry is senior vice president at the Aspen Skiing Co.


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