Mac and cheese festival in Aspen fails to return this fall |

Mac and cheese festival in Aspen fails to return this fall

Thea Rioux gets handed mac and cheese from the Cache Cache booth for the seventh annual Mac and Cheese Festival held on Aspen's Restaurant Row in September 2017.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

For the second year in a row, the city of Aspen has failed to resurrect the mac and cheese festival, which was a favorite among locals.

The last time the free event was held was in 2017, when former city of Aspen recreation supervisor Keith Bulicz organized it.

Bulicz founded the festival in 2011, which attracted thousands of people to a block on Hopkins Avenue, known as “Restaurant Row.”

It had a dozen or more restaurants competing for the title of the best mac and cheese, and was typically held the second weekend of September.

Last year, Susan Arenella, who works in the city’s recreation department, said organizers decided to take a yearlong hiatus to rethink the event.

But the event fell off the radar and has now been kicked over to Nancy Lesley, who is the city’s special events department.

“It’s a bigger conversation and I need to pick up the ball,” Lesley said. “We are committed to looking at this. … Hopefully it’s a ‘when’ not an ‘if’.”

Arenella said last year that organizers were thinking about making the event more of a festival in a park with other activities, and possibly change the timing because September is a busy month.

Lesley said she plans to reach out to the restaurants that have participated in the past to see what their feelings are about changing the event and the time of year it’s held.

“When the event started it was a slower season,” Lesley said. “We need to look at the timing and location of the event.”

Chris Lanter, co-owner of Home Team BBQ and Cache Cache, two restaurants that picked up most of the awards at the festival in 2017, said he loved to be part of the event even though it cost a couple thousand bucks to participate.

“We did it because it was fun,” he said. “I loved that you could just come out and eat mac and cheese for free.”

Lanter had enlisted students from the ProStart culinary program at Aspen High School to help him and his staff. He said he’d like the event to return and September is a good month, before his restaurant Cache Cache closes for the offseason.

Lesley said she looks forward to having conversations with Lanter and other restaurateurs.

“I’m hopeful that it’s an event that comes back in 2020,” she said.