Deaf Camp Picnic, set for July 17-19 in Snowmass, cancels Ricky Skaggs |

Deaf Camp Picnic, set for July 17-19 in Snowmass, cancels Ricky Skaggs

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Attendees learn how to mix batter for the best consistency during a Cooking Camp occuring this week at the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The nonprofit was forced to cancel the headlining act and change the location of the Deaf Camp Picnic, one of its annual fundraisers, because not enough tickets were sold in advance.
Heather Mattmann/Courtesy photo |

The Deaf Camp Picnic has been forced to cancel Ricky Skaggs’ performance and relocate because it has not sold enough tickets in advance.

The picnic, July 17 through 19, is an annual fundraiser for the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The nonprofit can’t afford to lose money on the event, so the camp and Skaggs decided that he would not play, said Lesa Thomas, executive director of the camp.

“We mutually agreed that Ricky would not come, because he didn’t want to play to an empty crowd … (and he) also wanted to help the camp by not extending the camp’s expenses,” Thomas said.

Admittance to the festival will now be free all three days to encourage more people to participate. Attendees will be asked to donate to the camp, and there also will be a silent auction the first day. VIP tickets, which provide discounted food and drinks and a private-patio viewing area, are still being sold for $100 each.

“I think that if the community would rally for the camp that would be wonderful.”
Lesa Thomas
Executive director, Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Snowmass Tourism already would have shared some of the costs of the event, but the department is now working with Related Colorado to fully cover the production, said Dave Elkan, sales and events manager, on Wednesday.

“The town has been nothing but supportive,” Thomas said.

The organizations are providing the Base Village events lawn as the picnic’s new venue. A common-consumption area will be established so patrons can purchase drinks at the four restaurants there and carry them throughout the plaza, eliminating the need for the camp to pay for alcohol and event security. In addition, Alchemy is offering its services for the stage, sound and lighting at a discount.

“Everyone is really coming together to minimize their costs as much as possible,” Elkan said.

The musicians still on the lineup, which include Americana trio Red Molly, Aspen band Starwood and Chicago’s Freddy Jones Band, which joined the roster Wednesday, also are chipping in, Thomas said.

Although hotel occupancy is very strong for the weekend, that doesn’t necessarily translate to ticket sales, Elkan said. More tickets could have sold before or at the festival, but that’s too big a risk to take for a nonprofit, he said.

Thomas said she’s been asked if the Aspen Camp is struggling financially.

“The answer to that is no,” she said. “We are OK. Having a fundraiser that loses money would negatively impact our bottom line. Then we might not be OK.”

Aspen Camp’s programs have been full all year, and 68 percent of participants need scholarships to attend, which profits from the picnic will support.

“We rely on those funds,” Thomas said. “We didn’t want to lose a lot of money. I think that if the community would rally for the camp, that would be wonderful.”

Mike Adler, of Grand Junction, was a member of the Aspen Camp’s board of directors and helped Thomas bring the picnic back last year. Adler died in April.

“We lost Mike, and he was the driving force for a lot of this,” Thomas said.

If the community is interested in the camp, now is the time to step up and join the board or volunteer, she said.

This week, the nonprofit is hosting kids ages 11 to 14, who had the option of a four-day backpacking trip or a cooking camp. The Aspen Camp has gotten involved locally this year by serving students from local schools, allowing nonprofits to use its facility and providing interpreter services for organizations such as Aspen Institute, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Aspen Valley Hospital.

“We really serve the community, not just people from around the world,” Thomas said. For more information about the picnic, visit To learn more about the Aspen Camp, visit