Summertime in Aspen is synonymous with a jam-packed festival season. As Memorial Day fades into a distant memory, Aspen’s summer high season is beginning to peep its head around the corner. The highway switchback over Independence Pass is open, eateries have lined streets and patios with tables and chairs for dining al fresco, impromptu ultimate Frisbee games are taking place in Paepcke Park, and jeans and boots are being shed like rattlesnake-skin for swimsuits and flip flops. All are surefire signs of summer in the Rockies.
Between June and September, our little Colorado mountain town becomes a high altitude Dionysian playground touting a vibrant calendar of events catering to practically every taste. Like an ice cream stand boasting hundreds of flavors and a rainbow of varieties, Aspen’s assortment of festivals celebrates an almost universal appeal to families, tourists, members of the billionaire jet set, and pragmatic mountain escapists. In the summer, social calendars are easily crammed with a full platter of unique special events, including scholarly Aspen Institute lectures, gourmet barbeques by world-renown chefs, organized bike races, stand-up comedy, and live music practically every day of the week. When the weather is warm, it is almost as if the carnival never stops.
This year’s festival potpourri is peppered with a few colorful newcomers like the first annual Woody Creek Beer Festival, the return of the Aspen Fringe Theater Fest, the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival, and a slack line Yoga gathering for the meditative and acrobatic. Many of Aspen’s quirky events have crystallized into time honored small town traditions, such as the Trashmasters Charity Golf Invitational, the Old Fashion 4th of July celebration, Saturday Farmers Market, and bluegrass atop Ajax every Sunday until August.
Although we certainly can’t speak for everybody, we’re mighty thrilled summer is here and the livin’ is easy. Like a bucking cowboy in the event rodeo, we’ve giddied up, branded our calendars, and wrangled down the top ten summer festivals we think are worth a hoot and a holler.
Downtown Aspen Art Festival
July 18 - 19, 2009
Hundreds of artists and craftsman from around the world converge in Wagner Park to showcase sophisticated brushwork and homespun handicrafts. The 7th annual Downtown Aspen Art Festival will feature vendors working with a variety of media including paintings, photography, sculpture, and handcrafted jewelry. During this weekend, downtown Aspen is transformed into an al fresco art gallery. Unlike other Aspen festivals, the exhibits is open to the public and free. Depending on your point of view, this family-friendly event on Saturday and Sunday is potentially more fun than an outing to Ikea, Pottery Barn, and Pier One combined.
More Information: The 7th Annual Downtown Aspen Art Festival
Rooftop Comedy Festival
July 11 - 14, 2009
Although the events do not actually occur atop of a roof, the second-annual Rooftop Comedy Festival attempts to fill the stand-up comedy void left when the HBO Comedy Festival packed it’s bags and headed to Las Vegas like a howling Raul Duke in a red, shark-like Cadillac. What once was an industry-wide mountain gathering is now reinventing itself as a grassroots laugh festival. The 2009 festival hosts the finals for the National College Comedy Competition and up-and-coming comedians like Saturday Night Live cast member Finesse Mitchell, Ted Alexandro, Robert Hawkins, and Lisa Landry.
More Information: www.rooftopcomedy.com
June 25 - August 22, 2009
Across the country, outdoor summer theater is an American tradition as venerable as apple pie and baseball. Throughout June and August, Theatre Aspen presents Broadway-caliber productions in the majestic setting of Rio Grande Park with a backdrop of Ajax Mountain. The cast of talented actors and actresses such as Joan Hess, Jamison Stern, and Sally Mae Dunn hail from prestigious on and off Broadway productions. The upcoming 2009 season includes the Tony-winning comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Jay Sandrich’s hilarious four-character play Chapter Two . Throughout the summer, Theatre Aspen conducts children’s theatre workshops for young actors and playwrights and stages A Year With Frog and Toad , a family musical full of giggles.
More Information: Theatre Aspen
Every Wednesday, June 17 - August 19 at 5 p.m.
Every Wednesday night at the rodeo grounds in Snowmass, the days of Buffalo Bill and the celluloid fantasia of a John Wayne movie are relived with a dose of theatrics and bravado. The Snowmass Rodeo is a fun-filled home-on-the-range tradition and an opportunity to watch true Colorado cowboys and cowgirls climb on a fired-up horse or bull and hold on for dear life. Adults and children alike will be fascinated and entertained by the skillful saddling and lassoing during traditional rodeo events like bronco riding, barrel racing, bull riding, bareback riding, and team roping and wrangling. Before the rodeo gets underway, a mouthwatering barbeque dinner provided by the Hickory House is available. Stay afterward sunset for a hee-hawing cowboy-led campfire sing along and marshmallow roast under the star-filled mountain sky.
Despite grumbles around town about the striking resemblance of this year’s festival to previous festivals, the Jazz Aspen/Snowmass Labor Day Festival remains a cheerful reason to look forward to the end of the summer. Citizen Cope, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Umphrey’s McGee, The Doobie Brothers, the Black-eyed Peas, The Drive By Truckers, and the headlining Allman Brothers will take the stage at the Snowmass Town Park over Labor Day Weekend. Jazz Aspen/Snowmass is also throwing another marquee festival earlier in the summer with a week-long June Festival. Scheduled to overlap with the Food and Wine Classic between June 18 – 27, the event will feature slightly more traditional jazz acts like Jamie Cullum, Smokey Robinson, Chris Botti, and Al Jarreau in the Benedict Music Tent.
More Information: Jazz Aspen/Snowmass