Here’s to giving the June festival a home in Aspen |

Here’s to giving the June festival a home in Aspen

Well, folks, it appears that Rio Grande Park survived the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival. The grass apparently withstood the happy pounding of jazz fans’ feet, which was by no means a certainty.Last summer, the Aspen Parks Department was forced to cordon off much of the park for the entire summer due to damage from the June festival. Repairing the grass cost taxpayers about $20,000, and there were mixed feelings at City Hall about the festival’s return in 2004.But on Thursday, parks chief Jeff Woods surveyed the grounds and said he was “pleasantly surprised” by what he saw, despite the wet weather that Aspen had over the weekend.This is good news for two reasons.First, it means the public will have use of Rio Grande Park all summer long. Some sections of the park will likely be roped off for a few weeks, but Parks Supervisor Steve Slack told The Aspen Times “we can get this park back this year.”Second, it means that Jazz Aspen Snowmass and the city of Aspen may have found a match. Perhaps Rio Grande Park could become a permanent home for the June festival. This year, with no perceived conflicts related to the Aspen Music Festival, the event was allowed to fully occupy, and even animate, downtown Aspen. Between the main stage in the park and the free concerts on the Cooper Avenue Mall and at the St. Regis, Jazz Aspen Snowmass succeeded in hosting a sort of citywide jazz party.Given the slowdown in Aspen nightlife over the past few years, it was good to see and hear and feel last weekend’s music and vibrancy.Even under trying weather conditions, Rio Grande Park withstood the pounding that several thousand jazz fans can deliver. By cooperating with city officials to tread lightly whenever possible, Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ crews – particularly The Wright Group, which set up and took down the 3,000-seat tent – managed to do their job with minimal damage to the park.And, to their credit, parks officials watched the proceedings carefully to protect the public’s property. No doubt, there must have been grumbling between the tent crews and the parks department along the way, but both camps deserve credit for a job well-done.This year made it clear the June festival can occur in town with few if any negative side effects. Here’s to a repeat performance in 2005.

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