Elizabeth Milias: Aspen’s Stationary Parade going nowhere fast
The Red Ant
With the lockdowns over and summer tourism season in full swing, for no good reason the City of Aspen has canceled one of our most cherished traditions, the old-fashioned Fourth of July parade. A year ago, this may have been necessary, but today it is nothing but a cop-out by the hyper-controlling overseers of Aspen’s nanny-state, intent on micro-managing us because they are certain they know best.
In its place, Aspen is hosting a “stationary parade” that “re-imagines” our small-town tradition as what can only be described as a trade show, featuring booths and interactive exhibits, six feet apart, throughout 12 blocks of the downtown core that will be closed to vehicle traffic.
Ostensibly, this decision to encourage the patriotic masses to carouse the streets on foot, stopping to engage with interactive exhibits, will prevent the spread of COVID in ways that people, sitting still along the former parade route with their families and friends, would not. The dubious assumption is that people will be entertained as though they are at an actual parade and that the anticipated pedestrian flow will safely and responsibly keep people from spreading their cooties to others.
Have you been to Aspen’s Saturday market? One quarter the size of what is planned for 10am today, the weekly market is hardly what anyone would consider “effective pedestrian flow.” It’s a festive logjam of neighbors and tourists, visiting, meandering, angling for fresh produce, and waiting 20-deep for Louis Swiss pastries, kettle corn or to pet a llama. If the idea is to spread people out, a stationary parade completely misses the mark because in practice, it’s actually a lot more like filling a convention center, and I don’t think this is what our nannies have in mind.
Ironically, arenas and ballparks across the country ARE being filled. Even our own local venues are back in action; the Belly Up, Wheeler Opera House, Hotel Jerome ballroom and the tent at the Silver Circle Ice Rink were sold out last weekend for the triumphant return of Jazz Aspen Snowmass. (When it comes to “re-imagining,” what Jim Horowitz and his team have done over the 30 years of the festival is what Aspen ought to look to. Horowitz has had wild pitches of every imaginable sort thrown at him only to pivot and knock each one out solidly of the park.)
Our local bureaucrats have an obvious lack of re-imagination. Sure, the waning pandemic presents the need for a degree of added consideration, but in the context of re-opening nightclubs, movie theaters, restaurants, bars and other close-proximity gathering places, Aspen’s knee-jerk reaction to snuff out the parade is the epitome of ruining the fun out of a patronizing abundance of caution.
The stationary parade, an oxymoron on its face, is also a metaphor for the Aspen government’s penchant for questionable decisions that are designed to address specific needs but are so poorly conceived that they end up doing just the opposite.
Case and point, consider what some call “affordable housing” in Aspen, originally intended to house the workforce. Today it has run amok, and is neither affordable nor exclusive to workers. And at $1 million per unit to build and with a tidal wave of retirees staying on in their units, the rogue system is set to collapse under its own weight in the none-too-distant future.
Then there’s Aspen’s war on cars. Removing parking spaces and attempting to corral them at an “intercept” lot or an inconvenient, hidden and far-too-small parking garage have not become deterrents from driving, rather deterrents to our visitors, as Aspen’s streets are regularly clogged with traffic, with many cars circling the blocks again and again in search of a place to park.
And don’t forget the green-at-all costs environmental “initiatives” that waste millions of public dollars and accomplish nothing: the ill-fated Castle Creek hydro plant, an attempt at renewable energy but later predicted to decimate stream flow once the facts were revealed, the failed geo-thermal drilling experiment, intended to harness suspected hot underground water beneath Aspen as an energy source but there wasn’t any, and of course the Canary Initiative, which seeks to drastically reduce Aspen’s greenhouse gas emissions through regulations and subsidized programs while casually ignoring the hundreds of idling cars in the westbound lanes on Main Street all day, every day of the week.
So, this morning, while the downtown core becomes a human traffic jam when there should be a parade, take solace in knowing that other more enlightened local organizations are boldly and patriotically celebrating Independence Day. The Aspen Music Festival and School is back with its beloved concert at the tent, free to all comers Sunday at 4 p.m., complimented this evening by performers on the malls, a laser show in Wagner Park and a live concert at Belly-Up.
The City of Aspen has the uncanny ability to throw cold water on some good, old-fashioned American fun, but, just as the Whos down in Whoville who celebrated even when the Grinch stole their Christmas presents, go out and enjoy a beautiful Aspen Fourth of July! There is still much to celebrate.
It’s only fitting that Aspen’s nemesis, the law of unintended consequences, be chosen as grand marshal of the stationary parade. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net