Summer events in Aspen being planned, modified
Officials attempting to work with COVID-19 public health orders; ’reverse’ Fourth of July parade in the works
City of Aspen officials and the chamber of commerce are working together on what summer events will look like given that COVID-19 public health orders are constantly changing.
The city and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s main summer event is the Fourth of July parade, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
This year, major modifications are being planned, according to Aspen Mayor Torre, who shared some details with the ACRA board of directors during their Tuesday meeting.
“Everyone knows it is just an absolute mob show downtown, there’s just no chance for social distancing with an event like that,” he said. “There’s been talk from council members about changing the feel of Fourth of July this year and paying extra attention to plan now for safe and successful events.”
The idea is that it will be a “reverse parade” where floats remain stationary and people walk around to see them.
Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of special events and marketing, told council members earlier this month that she and ACRA are working on keeping the kids on bikes portion of the parade and closing downtown streets to cars so people can celebrate with social distancing in mind.
“We are talking with our partner ACRA on what the overall day and evening might look like,” she said during a March 22 work session with council.
Torre said on Tuesday that it’s a balance of complying with public health orders and having a strong tourism season.
“We are working with ACRA, making sure downtown has the right amount of vitality,” he said.
There was discussion among some ACRA board members about the appropriateness of requiring people to have a passport that shows they’ve been vaccinated or have a COVID negative test that would allow people into big events, like the Excelsior Pass that New York state is adopting.
Torre said he and other officials have had conversations about what those types of passports are going to look like and it’s more likely to be handled by Pitkin County’s public health department.
“There are pluses and negatives to programs like that,” he said. “We are talking about having an actual health passport in order to congregate? Those are heavy duty personal freedom measures.”
Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Music Associates of Aspen, has considered such a passport for the summer music festival.
“We’ve had some legal advice about the passport and so far we are thinking we won’t do it, but that could change,” he said. “We think there are personal freedom issues with the passport, but there are with masks too and we are going to require masks for sure, so we are certainly looking at the question.”
Michael Goldberg, owner of Belly Up, a venue for live music in downtown Aspen, said a vaccine passport is something he is looking at but is not for or against it.
He said he hopes to be open this summer but full capacity is what the Belly Up’s business model necessitates.
Whether there will be a requirement this summer to wear masks outside in Aspen’s commercial core as it is currently mandated is unclear.
Torre said three out of five council members expressed their desire to extend the mask zone ordinance past its expiration date of May 1.
“I personally think we are going to need to modify it in some way,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of challenges with compliance that could lead to some conflict and I don’t want to see that.”
He said he supports people wearing masks inside but not outside.
“As far as the downtown mandate on the streets outdoors, I’m not sure that is a good idea for us to go down that path,” he said.
Council is scheduled to extend the ordinance next month but for how long remains to be seen.
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