Two Fun Events Together


Aspen has too many festivals. You have too little time. At last, a solution.

By Barry Smith May 1, 2014 Published in the Summer 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Be honest: When’s the last time you chatted face to face with a friend without sneaking in a quick text or two? Or ate a meal without perusing your iPad? Or drove your car without steering with your knee so you could give yourself a quick Botox treatment? Single-tasking just isn’t part of the deal for humans anymore.

Understanding this new reality, it’s time to take things to the next level: festival multitasking. No, not a festival devoted to how you can better multitask; a festival that actually is a multitask. A joining of forces of the plethora of Aspen summertime festivals, events, and gatherings to make newer, better, busier events, all with our ever-shortening attention spans in mind.

Here’s what’s in store on the multifestival front this summer. And remember, if you tweet an update from a festival that’s actually a combination of two festivals, you are technically triple-tasking. 

Aspen Food & Wine Classic/Ducky Derby

Many people erroneously think that sampling fine wine from the best vintners on the planet and wagering on rubber duckies that are floating downstream are as different as any two events could be. But consider this: One is a group of people thinking, “I’ve got a lot of money riding on this! Float faster! C’mon, duck!” The other is a group of people thinking, “I’m paying a lot of money to be here. Why is this food line not going faster? C’mon, what the (word that rhymes with ‘duck’)?!” The details of the mash-up are still up in the air. Either the tasting tents will be relocated by the river, or the rubber ducks will be racing down the river of wine (“Opulent notes of rhubarb with a slightly ducky mouth feel”) that naturally flows through the tent each year. 

Ruggerfest/Ideas Fest

Yes, the world has problems. Yes, people have some pretty interesting solutions. So how about, rather than pondering them via staid panel discussions, these hifalutin theories, pleas, and admonitions are presented on the rugby pitch? Against real rugby players. How will Arianna Huffington’s lecture on the need for journalistic integrity in a changing world sound while locked in a scrum with fifteen beer-guzzling Kiwis? Awesome, most likely. Yo-Yo Ma’s advocacy for musical education in public schools may be a tearjerker from the podium, but how will it play while he’s sprinting for his life along the sideline? And rucks and mauls are not situations one usually associates with ruminations on national economics, but this is the year Alan Greenspan plans to change that. 

John Denver Week/Aspen Laff Fest 

There’s nothing comedians love more than making fun of kindhearted earnestness. And there’s nothing that John Denver fans love more than being made fun of by comedians. Perfect. After a few years this event is likely to be rechristened the “Fish-in-a-Barrel Fest.” Each year a grand prize will be awarded to the comedian with the most original joke using the beloved Aspenite’s birth name, Deutschendorf. (Q: Who’s the best folk singer on the Death Star? A: Deutschendarth Vader. You guys are great. I’ll be here all week.) 

Power of Four Mountain Bike Race/Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Mountain biking is exhilarating. Ballet is enchanting. The two combined is nothing short of alchemical magic. Imagine a full production of Swan Lake staged along the Government Trail. Or the Nutcracker presented right in front of the starting line. Or Giselle performed the way it was meant to be performed—by a troupe mounted atop bikes screaming down the Congo Trail. The only thing that would make this more exciting is if Aspen also had some sort of skeet-shooting festival that could be incorporated into the mix. 

Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Summer Words/Snowmass Rodeo 

What do writing your memoir and riding a bull have in common? Probably not much. And that’s too bad—for you. It’s also about to change. In the past, participants in the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Summer Words were given a bit of classroom-based writing direction and then instructed to luxuriate in a grassy meadow and scribble casually while gazing at wispy clouds. No more. This year all writing assignments will be executed atop 2,000 pounds of snarling bull. You’ll have about ten seconds from the moment that gate is opened, if you’re good, to get some thoughts down before you’re tossed into the dirt like a crumpled-up first draft. And the stomping you’re likely to get from the bull is the kind that literary critics can only dream of delivering. These are guaranteed to be the most immediate and honest handful of words you’ll ever put on paper. Leave your thesaurus at home.

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