Aspen Music Festival and School Lawn will remain free and open this summer | New

Much to the delight of music lovers and valley dwellers alike, the decades-old tradition of gathering on the lawn outside the Benedict Musical Tent will be a free experience for all this summer, announced the Aspen festival and music school Thursday morning.

The news followed the organization’s announcement last week that, in an effort to alleviate crowds due to COVID, the AMFS would be implementing a reservation system and lawn fees this summer.

Aspen Music Festival President and CEO Alan Fletcher said Thursday the reversal of his decision was a response to the game-changing May 13 announcement that people vaccinated would not are more invited to wear masks or to social distance outside. On a related note, the “significant policy changes” that arose in the wake of the Pitkin County Board of Health meeting – also on May 13 – also prompted the AMFS to reassess its COVID policies, which the non-profit organization had already announced that morning.

“When everything changed last Thursday, it was not possible to change all aspects of our ticketing, seating and security plans at the same time. All aspects, from contactless ticketing to transit structures, seating location, entry / exit, property fencing and lawn management relate to each other ”, Fletcher wrote via email Thursday. He added: “It took several days to think about how to distance yourself and sit safely on the lawn without a reservation system. But our team made a good proposal which allows the pitch to be free without being unmanageable.

“Importantly, the greatly improved ability to sit in the tent, ratified Thursday afternoon, reduces the pressure on the lawn.”

The initial announcement that AMFS would charge to sit on the Karetsky Musical Lawn this summer came with its share of public criticism, including voiced on social media and in letters published in local newspapers. The music festival noted in its communication that the reservation system and fees – which were $ 50 “per module” for Sunday and Friday afternoon performances and $ 25 for any other day of the week – would not be in place until this summer.

Fletcher further explained by email on Thursday that when the AMFS began planning for the summer, “unlimited” outdoor gatherings were not allowed.

“During the planning, and throughout the afternoon of last Thursday, we didn’t think we would be able to seat people in the tent without taking a distance, which would severely limit attendance. So we developed the idea of ​​remote places on the lawn, with a limited number and a reservation system, ”Fletcher wrote. “If reservations were free, a lot of people would ask for a reservation for everything and then choose what they came up with later. We would have places for no-shows, which would be extremely aggravating for the people who had been refused, and we would then find that many spaces were unused.

Asked about the public response and its role in reversing the organization’s decision-making, AMFS Vice President for Marketing and Communications Laura Smith wrote via email: “The comments spanned the spectrum. , but there was certainly dismay. We knew there would be and we feel it too.

Smith continued, “We all want things to get back to normal, we all want it to be. But the reversal has more to do with our continued assessment of what is possible than anything else. Our goal is to be responsive to the kaleidoscope of constantly changing factors and to bring as much music as possible to our community.

Although it was not immediately clear on Thursday how many years people have gathered on the music festival lawn to enjoy the sounds of summer in Aspen, Smith confirmed: “It has definitely been decades. . “

“I’ve seen historic photos that go back decades with people outside, and I have no reason to believe it never was,” she noted. AMFS was founded in 1949 as part of Goethe’s bicentennial music festival and convocation.

Although the reservation system no longer exists, the AMFS will continue to manage and keep the lawn away from the public based on county recommendations, according to Thursday’s announcement. Part of the current plan involves a ‘pod system’, although the specifics of this setup need to be determined.

“People can just show up and appreciate [shows] free. Details on how this will work are to come, ”the release states.

Asked about the capacity of the pitch, Smith wrote via email, “We don’t have a formal capacity per se, but people normally sit with a little distance between parties. A pod lawn may have a little more space between groups than usual, but all but the most requested events should match attendance from previous years.

Smith added, “We will be implementing some systems for high demand events to facilitate seating and will be announcing them shortly.”

In order to make the necessary changes to its systems, AMFS is postponing the date on which its tickets go on sale to June 1. The release also notes that two highly anticipated AMFS events, “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” on July 3 and “Final Sunday” on August. 2, will also be broadcast live for free. A full broadcast schedule for this summer will be released soon.

“While this is a tough environment and not everything could be exactly the same as in previous years,” Smith concluded, “there will be concerts every day and we are working hard and looking forward to bringing the music back to the community. . “

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