Ruggerfest: A player’s perspective | AspenTimes.com

Ruggerfest: A player’s perspective

Matt Doubek
Special to the Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

When I arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley three years ago, after relocating from Chicago, I knew very few people. Though the few I knew tried to prepare me for what life would be like here, I quickly realized that I was very unprepared. Through the course of joining the rugby team and finding work I met a lot of new people. What surprised me the most was how eager people were to help. Whether it was a sleeping bag, a lead on a job, or just some sound advice, I was not short on people willing to help. I began to feel a real sense of community. A willingness of the people to simply help you enjoy your life, no matter what your passion is. Whether you ski, snowboard, fly fish, brew beer, create art, or just like the mountains, the community that makes up Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley is eager to help your passion thrive.

My passion is rugby, and I have found a home here through rugby. But I am not the only one. All of us that make up the Gentlemen of Aspen have in some way left our homes to be a part of this club. You may know us and you may not. We may have painted your house or done construction on your office building. We might have served you dinner or greeted you at your favorite spa. And there is no question that we are patrons of your watering holes. Whatever the case may be, we are all proud members of the Aspen community. We have had the opportunity to play for the best and play with the best. We have travelled to all ends of the country and proudly displayed the aspen leaf on the back of our jerseys. Beyond those experiences, I am never more proud to display that jersey than right here at home during Ruggerfest.

I have had the privilege of participating in the last three Ruggerfest tournaments and what I enjoy most are the colorful conversations I have with those who travel as spectators and those who play in Ruggerfest. Be it a US Eagle who once told me, “Ruggerfest is the best tournament I’ve played in, besides the World Cup.” Or the 50-somethings that tell me, “My wife doesn’t make plans on the third weekend in Sept. because she knows I’ll be at Ruggerfest”! Ruggerfest brings an endless joy to those that get to play and lends a lifetime of memories to those who have played before us.

The Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club is rich in tradition and excellence. The Club has sent many players to the national team and has many national championships to boast. The Club had a legendary run in the late 90’s and early 2000’s winning Super League and Division 1 titles and that will never be matched. More recently they were 2008 7’s National Champs and the 2009 D1 15’s National Champs, making Aspen only the second team in history to hold both championships in one calendar year. Not to mention, of course, countless Ruggerfest championships.

Another Ruggerfest is upon us – the 42nd to be exact. But it is having a little trouble getting off the ground. Just like everybody, the economic turmoil in the country has affected The Gentlemen. We are a non-profit organization that, until recently, has relied heavily on the financial contributions of a few. Now we must rely on ourselves, paying seasonal dues and travel costs to continue playing and keeping Aspen on the rugby map.

While sponsorship for Ruggerfest has never been our main challenge, this year it is.

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Some sponsors just can’t fit it in their diminished budgets this year and it is well understood. However, some sponsors, whom greatly benefit from Ruggerfest, have just turned away. Ruggerfest generates nearly 500,000 dollars annually for the City of Aspen. Each year Ruggerfest weekend sees swells in hotel and restaurant business during a time that would otherwise be slow. We are always looking to make Ruggerfest the most successful it can be for the team and the city. Please help us attain our goal and make Ruggerfest the world-class tournament it rightfully is.

The leaves are changing colors. Wagner Park’s goalposts received a fresh coat of red and black paint Wednesday afternoon.

Ruggerfest is back.

The 42nd installment of the Aspen tradition, which draws teams from all over the country for a weekend of celebration and competition, kicks off today with action in the over-45 and over-50 divisions. Matches will run from 8 a.m. until after 5 p.m. at both Wagner and Rio Grande parks.

On Friday, Aspen’s Old Boys take to the Wagner pitch three times in over-35 play – against the Clowns at 9:40 a.m., the Brothers for Life at 11:20 a.m., then the Kansas City Blues Brothers at 2:40 p.m. Aspen’s over-35 squad outlasted the Colorado Misfits, 17-10, to win last year’s tournament.

Saturday, Aspen begins defense of its 2008 open division title. It will take on the Highlanders at 10:30 a.m. at Wagner, then take on New Mexico at 2:40 p.m. at Rio Grande. Semifinals will take place at 3:40 and 4:50 p.m. at Wagner.

The men’s open final will take place at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Wagner – the culmination of a day of championship games that begin at 8 a.m. For a full schedule of games, visit http://www.aspenrugby.com/rf_schedule.html.

Last year, the Gents outlasted the longtime rival Denver Barbarians, 18-9, in a bruising final to clinch their third consecutive Ruggerfest title. A win this weekend would be Aspen’s 12th in the last 14th years.

In addition to the action on the pitch, the Gentlemen of Aspen are hosting evening parties throughout the weekend. A welcome luau and pool party at the Limelight Lodge will kick things off at 7 p.m. tonight. Friday, a fundraiser supporting the Patrick Culley foundation will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hotel Jerome J Bar. An after party will take place at the Sky Hotel. On Sunday, the event will close with the Final Fling, a Ruggerfest tradition, at Eric’s.

For more information, visit aspenrugby.com.