A fireworks display scheduled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen has been canceled, due to ongoing drought conditions and attendant fire danger.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) had pledged $10,000 to pay for the fireworks, as a gift to Food & Wine magazine for holding the annual event here for three straight decades. Plans are in the works for ACRA to give a portion of the money to a food-related charity in Food & Wine’s name.
The annual foodie festival will take place June 15 to 17.
Chamber president Debbie Braun announced the cancellation to ACRA board members on Tuesday, saying they couldn’t pull off the fireworks “unless it snows everyday between now and Food & Wine.”
“Certainly there will be no fireworks, and we’re not going to roll them over to [the 31st anniversary],” Braun added Friday.
Aspen City Council this spring authorized another $10,000 in city funds for the fireworks. The council will discuss whether it wants to fund an alternative activity in public meetings next week, Mayor Mick Ireland said. When drought scuttled summer fireworks once in the 1980s, he said, organizers bought glow sticks for the public and organized a “glow stick party” in Wagner Park.
The Food & Wine display had been planned as a one-off fireworks event, in addition to the annual ones over Aspen Mountain for the World Cup ski races, Wintersköl festival, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.
Drought conditions in the Roaring Fork Valley have led to a fire ban in Pitkin County, enacted in early April.
The ban’s specific prohibitions include fireworks.
Aspen’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display is also in danger of cancellation, if drought conditions persist over the next month.
An unusually dry spring and early summer have created combustible conditions and raised wildfire danger in the forest surrounding Aspen. Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, reported last month that soil moisture content has been measured between 5 and 10 percent in May, when it is normally between 60 and 70 percent.
“Everything is lining up for a fire season that could be very volatile,” he told Pitkin County officials in a briefing on fire danger.
The city of Aspen has also prepared for water restrictions later this summer, which will be necessary if the dry summer continues.