Aspen Times editorial: Fourth of July parade needs to move, not be static

Aspen Times editorial board

While we are certain the city of Aspen was well-intentioned with visions of reducing our carbon footprint and minimizing crowds, after spending the Fourth of July holiday downtown we hope those in charge concluded the same thing we did: bring back the traditional parade.

The Aspen Times participated in this year’s community event, and along with connecting with some of our readers we gave away 300 Paradise Bakery cookies, as well as 300 Otter-Pops, countless balloon animals to kids and let everyone know about our 140th birthday party Aug. 26 at the Aspen Historical Society.

We published a nice feature story about how the crowds flocked to downtown and a great slideshow of photos from the entire day, and we did our annual Facebook Live from the Fourth celebrations.

We were involved. We were engaged. We paid close attention.

First, the good stuff about the 2021 edition.The weather was fantastic, the crowds came out in droves, the kids’ bike parade was another wonderful display of organized chaos and the variety of booths was impressive.

From Tibetan Monks chanting outside Paradise Bakery to the Aspen Santa Fe Folklorico dancing in front of the Wheeler Opera House, quality hot dog giveaways from the Aspen Fire Department and Douglas Elliman in front of the Ute Mountaineer to the cocktails served at Kemosabe and classic cars and the Aspen Music School and Festival students’ performances, there was plenty to see and do.

And now, what we saw as the not-so good.

The “reverse parade” did not accomplish or solve any crowding problems. There were still large gatherings of people shoulder to shoulder in multiple spots in the core. Patrons were dozens deep waiting in lines at their favorite booths. The corner of Hyman Avenue and Mill Street was as packed with attendees watching the Folklorico dancers just as much as during the parade. We missed the opportunity to respect and honor our veterans at the front of the parade.

Summer just isn’t as fun without the water cannon fights coming from the passengers on the fire trucks and the rafting company crews, or the red, white and blue underwear-clad roller skaters and the late Carl Bergman’s steam calliope.

The “moving parade” of years past is tradition, it’s old-fashioned (like the name says) and it just feels right.

According to the city’s introduction to a survey on the future of the holiday, there is a “desire by Aspen City Council to look at more environmentally friendly ways to celebrate as the parade relies heavily on automobiles to pull floats.”

That’s a hard argument to make, especially given the private jets parked wingtip to wingtip at the Aspen airport for the entire holiday weekend.

On top of that, airport officials were allowing drop-and-go flights where private planes still came in, dropped off their couple of passengers and flew off to another airport to wait.

Thus, those groups are accounting for two flights into Aspen: one for their drop-off to come enjoy our hamlet and one when they are ready to head home.

But we want to zero in on the parade? How much can we really offset our carbon footprint by shutting down the parade? Enough to offset the influx of visitors flying or driving into the valley?

The city is soliciting input from folks until 5 p.m. Sunday at about what they want to see for future Independence Day celebrations.

Let’s get it out there now that we are put off at the start about the way the city is asking for our opinions. Requiring us to make an account with our name and other data before we can get to the survey makes us think we won’t get the full gauge from the community because people will be turned off by yet another registration and user ID.

A city official said the registration for their more important surveys helps them understand if the comments are coming from residents or visitors. We get some of that, but really how much will that weigh into the final decisions? Plus, three of the questions in the Fourth of July survey concern age, hometown and your connection to Aspen.

As of Wednesday afternoon, just shy of 350 people had filled out the Independence Day questionnaire. That seems pretty low given the amount of chatter that’s gone on in the past two weeks.

If the goal is to have more to do and keep people in town on the holiday, then perhaps we could mesh the two events and have the traditional parade to start the day, then set up booths in Wagner Park for folks to mill around a few more hours and prep for the night events.

We encourage everyone in Aspen and the area, as well as those who come in for the holiday, to fill out the survey (registration be damned) and give their point of view. And we encourage the City Council to step back and continue to focus its energy on solving our carbon-footprint problem in more productive, meaningful ways and bring back the more festive Old Fashioned Parade that’s been hyped for years.

The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason and copy editor Sean Beckwith.