Private service will serve Thompson, community well
A collective sigh of relief was felt in the upper valley when Woody Creekers decided last week not to hold a public memorial celebration for Hunter S. Thompson in August.Whatever you might think about Thompson – literary genius, good neighbor, gun-toting maniac – most of us can agree that an open invitation for his fans to visit the Roaring Fork Valley and celebrate his memory is a dangerous and messy proposition indeed. Instead, several hundred friends and family members will attend an invitation-only service at Thompson’s Owl Farm property in Woody Creek, and the rest of the world will be left to imagine what it was like.This is the only sensible choice.Almost since the day Thompson took his own life in February, rumors have circulated about his memorial service, his wish to have his ashes blasted from a cannon and where and how the pyrotechnic rite would occur. Family members and friends explored the idea of a public event, including a Jumbotron with a closed-circuit feed from the service on a neighboring property in Woody Creek or at Buttermilk Ski Area. As recently as last week, the notion of a public celebration was still being seriously contemplated.Of course, nobody knew exactly what such an event would look like, let alone how many Thompson fans would make the pilgrimage or how local law enforcement would handle traffic, parking, access and so on. One thousand fans or 100,000? Solemn celebration or high-country Woodstock? Think a few fans might get too loaded?Think the Pitkin County commissioners might have a few doubts about the permit for such a gathering?As we said, dangerous and messy. And probably undoable, at least in the time frame originally envisioned. According to Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, a public tribute to Thompson may yet occur, but at a more realistic time and place.As it stands, the private service includes plans for a monument, shaped like the double-thumbed fist of gonzo legend. And Thompson’s remains will still be fired from a cannon – but not for all the world to see.So, we applaud the decision to make this a private event for family and friends. Chances are it will avert headaches all around and bring more dignity to the ceremony itself.
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.