Getting grilled at the Butcher’s Block party in Aspen |

Getting grilled at the Butcher’s Block party in Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times

The heat wasn’t as bad as most people thought, but the smoke could be horrific. The equipment was balky at times, and the chain of command and supply lines were unclear at best. Most vexing, the line, no matter how many of the incoming you handled, only got longer and longer.

Still, behind the grills at Sunday afternoon’s Butcher’s Block Block Party, there wasn’t a complaint to be heard. Bob and Scott and the Captain and Dave and Todd worked through the smoke and grease and that endless, endless parade of hungry mouths with nothing but good humor and the occasional margarita in a paper cup. The generosity of spirit was contagious: While I yearned for a break from those bags of hot dogs and brats and the trays of sausages, I couldn’t give in. If I took a break, those tubes of meat wouldn’t get cooked, diners wouldn’t get fed, and when I returned from my break, the line would only be longer, if that was possible. The last thing I could handle was the thought that I had done something to make the line even longer, and so I kept grilling. At some point, when I charred a finger and a woman asked for five hot dogs and two burgers, which she stuffed into some Tupperware containers, I thought I’d had enough. Then I looked at my fellow grillmen, and the moment passed. On to that next thousand-pack of hot dogs.

The generosity started at the top. To commemorate the Butcher’s Block’s 40th anniversary, owner Jack Frey brought back the Block Party, a free thank-you to the community, after a 12-year absence. What I remembered from the olden days was that this was no toss-a-bone-to-the-masses event. There was top-shelf stuff — steaks, ahi tuna, brand-name beverages — to be had. This year was the same. Even when the hot dogs were finished for the day, steaks were being hauled out of the freezer for the last stragglers.

I was honored to be part of it. The crew got something on the order of 1,700 thank-yous, and I got a glimpse behind an Aspen institution that for two decades I had only experienced from the other side of the counter.

I did finally take my break. After five hours of strategizing what I would consume — steak sandwich, massive pile of chips, a Louisiana red-hot sausage with the works — I went over to the beverage tub and fished out an organic carrot juice, which, after hours of immersion in meat, tasted like heaven. But even better was cleaning my glasses of the soot and grease, looking out and seeing — yes, the line had gotten shorter.

When the 50th-anniversary party rolls around, save my spot at the sausage grill. I’m in.


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