Participants in this year’s Food & Wine Classic are beginning to arrive in Aspen. There’s usually a big push to get ready for the event among city workers and event planners alike. This year that includes buttoning up construction projects too. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has this report from the final stretch.
Tomi Anne Wilson is putting the finishing touches on a flower box at the entrance of the Grand Tasting tent. “I run the floral crew for the City of Aspen,” she explains. “So we actually started at the beginning of May, getting ready for Food & Wine.” Wilson has done this for three years, and loves it. This arrangement is near the end of a very long to do list over the last six weeks, including “prepping and planting all the flower beds in town, all the hanging baskets, all the urns.” That added up to two entire semi trucks full of flowers.
Around the corner, and inside an empty storefront near the Wheeler Opera House, there’s a steady trickle of volunteers checking in. “My brain is moving at a million miles an hour right now,” says Tami Solondz. She’s coordinating the long-running program, which means locals can experience Food & Wine without paying more than a thousand dollars a pop. There’s six hundred and thirty volunteers this summer.
“We only take volunteers from the Roaring Fork Valley,” says Solondz. “So these volunteers are my doctor… my landlords, or a pilot who flies my plane, people who teach my kids or drive the bus...all people I see throughout the year.” And some whom she doesn’t run into that often, then making Food & Wine a mini reunion.
The number of helping hands is about the same as previous years, and Solondz and her crew have gotten over the first major hurdle getting ready for the event. That’s getting every individualized pass printed.
But there are some big steps left, and that goes for the City of Aspen, too. At the registration tent, the sound of construction hums in the background. Work at the Rio Grande parking garage is one of two current city construction projects. The other is Aspen’s the now demolished transit center, Rubey Park. It’s right next to Food & Wine’s main location. Workers at both projects will continue at right up to when the event kicks off on Friday.
“They will be constructing Wednesday and Thursday, not Friday,” explains John Krueger, Aspen’s Transportation Director. The town officially limits building and demolition during Food & Wine. “So Friday, Saturday, Sunday, maybe Monday [workers] will not be there. The project will be closed up, and they’ll be lots of room for the Food & Wine folks to move around outside of the construction fence.”
Construction down by the registration tent will also likely continue until Friday morning. It’s almost a reprieve after the last two months, when the area was under siege by heavy equipment for numerous government projects.