Little Nell to celebrate both kinds of oysters at new Labor Day event |

Little Nell to celebrate both kinds of oysters at new Labor Day event

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
Courtesy photoThe Ajax Tavern in downtown Aspen will serve up plenty of beer and food at the first-ever Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and BBQ from 4 to 8 p.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 3.

ASPEN – The Little Nell Hotel & Residences is trying to keep Aspen’s late-summer party going with a Labor Day event that celebrates the oyster – both the kind you find in saltwater and the type that dangles from a bull calf’s underside.The Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and BBQ will take place at the hotel’s Ajax Tavern near Gondola Plaza. The indoor-outdoor event, set for from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 3, also will feature a live rock band, alcoholic beverages and barbecue pork and lamb. Tickets are $75 and cover food and drinks.Sally Spaulding, public relations manager for the hospitality division of Aspen Skiing Co., said the event promises to be an easygoing affair.”It’ll be like the most laid-back cocktail party you’ve ever been to,” Spaulding said. “We’re telling people, bring clothes for whatever because if it rains, we’re still going to be hanging out.” The idea for the oyster-and-barbecue festival was born out of the hotel’s inability over the past two years to host a Big Aspen Barbecue Block Party near Gondola Plaza in downtown Aspen like it did in 2010. At a City Council meeting in early 2011, some retailers and restaurateurs along East Durant Avenue and South Hunter Street near the Gondola Plaza complained that the August 2010 block party had excessive smoke and drove business away. Organizers of the block party then tried to obtain City Hall permission to hold the event on Monarch Street, near the Limelight Hotel, but were unsuccessful because of a scheduling conflict with a Wheeler Opera House film festival.In January, John Speers, general manager of The Little Nell Hotel and coordinator of the block party, tried to resurrect the event for this month but found out that his New York partners had to opt out because they’d been hired for the Republican and Democratic national conventions.”We still wanted to do something fun for the community,” Spaulding said. “We were chatting about different things, and Matt O’Neill, the new chef at Ajax Tavern, said his favorite thing to do is have a big, crazy barbecue for all of his friends. He kind of wanted to extend that to the whole community.”O’Neill said the festival will feature oysters on the half-shell and various oyster hors d’oeuvres as well as the infamous Rocky Mountain oyster. It’s too soon to say where the saltwater oysters will be from.”We follow the freshness on the oysters,” he said. “We order from dozens of suppliers depending on what they have and what’s the best.”Spaulding added that restaurant equipment purchased for the 2010 festival will be used for the upcoming event.The festival is for those 21 and older. Specialty cocktails from Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, an assortment of beers from New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins and various wines by the glass and nonalcoholic beverages will be included in the ticket price. Limited-edition T-shirts featuring the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival and BBQ logo will be available for purchase. For more information, visit or

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