Makin’ sure all’s fine at Food & Wine
On Wednesday morning, Wagner Park was peaceful.Tents set up for the annual Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen were quiet, dew was just drying on the grass, and Jack Johnson’s latest croons were piped over the speaker system.This is Robert Fickes’ domain for the weekend. But it won’t be calm for long.Today exhibitors arrive to fill the tent with food, wine and marketing materials, and Friday through Sunday the park becomes the venue for the weekend’s main attraction: The Grand Tasting Tent. As the head of security for the weekend events, Fickes is in charge of about 40 security guards, brought in to guard entrances and exits, and keep watch over the event’s guests and exhibitors. Technically, they’re the hired muscle of this event, but Fickes prides himself on being more about brains than brawn.”We want to treat our clients, guests and customers with respect and courtesy at all times,” Fickes said. “Our guys will be around to guard gates and to help pick up tables or unload vehicles, and they do it without being asked.”But come on, Bob (if we can call him Bob). There must be a good story or two about someone who imbibed just a bit to much and found him or herself on the outside of the tents, looking in. After all, the combination of wine, the crowds and the catering must send a few people each year into some sort of frenzy, right?”A couple of years ago a volunteer had too much to drink and was asked to leave,” Fickes said. “His pass was confiscated but he kept jumping the fence and coming back over. He did that about five or six times before we had to call the police.”Five or six times? Fickes admits that he has a forgiving nature even though he has a job to do. He generally prefers to tell those who have overimbibed and come in contact with security guards to go home and sleep it off, rather than call the police.”We have a policy about calling the police – they’re really a last resort,” he said. And even then, rather than handcuff someone inside the Grand Tasting Tent, Food & Wine officials would rather someone be taken out of the park before that sort of debacle could occur.This year is Fickes’ fifth at Food & Wine. The Silt resident is the director of First Line Security, providing security throughout the valley for private and public events. He stays in Aspen during the Food & Wine weekend, since the event involves 24-hour patrols of tents around town at The Little Nell, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Wagner Park.Years ago, when the annual event was much smaller, about 10 security guards were needed for the event. This year, some of Fickes’ guards are coming from local hotel staffs, and others who look forward to the event all year are returning from other states to help out.”Yeah, the tent gets crowded, but you’d be surprised – people are generally really polite and good to work with,” he said. “We have to do a lot of PR – some guests from out of town don’t know where to eat in town or want directions. And we want people to have a good time and come back, so we can keep coming back.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com– see Food & Wine on page A7– continued from page A1
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