Roger Marolt: Keeping our Fourth of July expectations low and masks high

Roger Marolt
Roger This

I would have said I don’t like crowds. Now I miss them. I like people-watching after all. The lack of crowds makes me realize how important acquaintances are. It makes me appreciate the comfort of seeing familiar faces I don’t know. I concede the undeniable feeling of hope in being an ineluctably anonymous member of a resilient humanity that has persisted through every challenge history has put up against it, so far. Strength in numbers? I suppose that describes it accurately enough. I am convinced we are not designed to live in isolation.

It’s going to be a weird Independence Day. We were stunned over the suddenly imposed COVID-19 protocol around St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t recall any green beer. Easter is a solemn holiday for Christians and generally a pretty quiet day secularly, too, so the changes we made to everyday living didn’t seem to interfere with that celebration to any great degree. Memorial Day we got out of the house and were overjoyed. We’ve had birthdays in quarantine time and those gatherings were smaller, but they seemed relatively normal in a celebratory sense. We had nice dinners with family and friends, got our gifts, blew out the candles, and went to bed thanking lucky stars for no surprise party.

Now, we have the Fourth of July to try out. It will be harder. This holiday is about crowds. It was built for jam-packed events spanning a super-size weekend, oftentimes four days or an entire week. It is about parades, ball games, concerts, recreational competitions, eating, costume contests, street dancing, beaches, community picnics that break up in late afternoon for barbecues in perfectly manicured backyards, and most of all the fireworks; drought years like the present excepted. One bit of good news, maybe, is that a lot fewer will wake up exhausted the day after.

I don’t know what to predict for Aspen. There are plenty of people in town. There are not many normal Fourth of July things to do. The lack of the usual traditions is not unexpected. Many things about the day are likely to surprise.

My guess is that the ghosts of the silver boom will manage to fire their cannon from the Smuggler mine at sunrise. Nobody had better complain. It might be the most exciting part of the day.

My guess is that you should wear a mask even into the wilderness this weekend. As if anyone keeps track of such things, there is about a 100% chance that record numbers of hikers will find their way to American Lake this holiday, ditto for Cathedral, Weller, Maroon and Crater lakes. Somebody may want to drop a chlorine tablet in Devil’s Punchbowl (just kidding!).

I predict a flotilla of bumper SUPs and tubes down, and possibly up, Stillwater. If the weather is warm, this may start at 8 in the morning as athletes that normally run the Boogie’s 5K look to get their traditional endorphin fix in before the annual sipping of Paradise latte in the mall recovery routine. Get the full collision coverage on your rental car if you drive. There will be fender benders and door dings. Prepare for battle. This will not be a drill!

Something we won’t have that few will miss are the mishmash of folding chairs and blankets lining the curbs of Main Street to reserve spots for the parade. People in the know will place these items in the parks to stake their claims for lunch spots or by the Mill Street fountain on the mall for kid splashing instead. Thankfully, absent will be the pre-parade and post firework traffic jams.

The biggest mystery is what the mall will be like. For sure that is the place everyone will go at some point to see what’s going on. It might get crowded. But, what will folks do there? How long can anyone walk around looking for something to do before realizing that there really is nothing going on except aimless wandering through a cloud of virus aerosols? It’s so un-American! We need purpose, even in relaxation.

At the end of the weird day, I hope we recognize the most cherished thing about our independence is perhaps not that we are free to do whatever we want, which is certainly our right, for the most part, but rather imagine that people who decided that this was worth fighting for might have believed we would be great enough to do what is right, for a better whole. Wear a mask. Say “Black Lives Matter.” Look for expedient ways to change.

Roger Marolt can hardly believe the shape we are in. Email at