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Aspen Events: The 10 Best Summer Festivals in Aspen, Colorado

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Aspen Summer Words: The Aspen Literary Festival
June 21-26, 2009

According to a promotional blurb on the Aspen Writer’s foundation website, O. Henry Award-winning author Pam Houston called Aspen Summer Words “… The Sundance Film Festival of literary publishing, a place outside Manhattan’s dusty bedrooms for books to germinate and grow.” Those words make our aspiring inner-Dostoyevsky tingle with delight. The 5th Annual Aspen Summer Words Festival is a five-day literary gathering where bookworms and authors meet for intimate conversations and lectures about the craft of writing and reading literature. This year’s theme is focused on an ambitious global perspective titled “World of Words.” This year’s internationally-renown guest list of literati include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ishmael Beah, Gary Ferguson, David Davidar, and Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson. The festival takes place in the beautiful The Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Meadows.

More Information: Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival


The Snowmass Chili Pepper and Brew Festival
June 5-6, 2009

The 6th annual Chili-Brew festival kicks off the summer season with a sudsy habanero sizzle. After a long off-season, the warm weather party begins in Snowmass on the first weekend in June with an outdoor beer sampling, chili cook-off, and live music from Leftover Salmon with Karl Denson, Partical, and moe. Over 100 craft microbrews and premium artisan liquors are available for sampling, so adults planning to imbibe beverages should rely on RFTA when shuttling back to town. The winner of the chili cook off secures a spot in the 2009 World’s Chili & Salsa Championship.

More Information: The Snowmass Chili Pepper and Brew Festival


The 27th Annual Food & Wine Classic
June 5-6, 2009

The Grand Tasting Pavillion during the Food & Wine Classic Photo Courtesy of Perry Johnson and Food & Wine MagazineThe Grand Tasting Pavillion during the Food & Wine Classic Photo Courtesy of Perry Johnson and Food & Wine Magazine

As far as summer festivals with grandeur, pizzazz, and plenty of class, Aspen’s annual The Food & Wine Magazine Classic simply can’t be topped. In addition to being one of the world’s premiere lifestyle events, The Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is one of the many prizes of which Top Chef contestants compete to showcase their showcase their culinary prowess to an influential and affluent audience of gastronomes and foodies. This years line up of celebrity chefs includes presentations from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Mario Batali, Michelle Bernstein, Ming Tsai, Giada De Laurentiis and Tom Colicchio, amongst scores of others. The Grand Tasting in Wagner Park is like blissful kabuki theater for chefs and epicureans as vendors prepare a scrumptious and oh-so-delightfully-gluttonous feast of wine tastings, food samplings, cooking demos, and exotic flavors worthy of Caligula or any other ravenous Roman Emperor.

More Information: The 27th Annual Food and Wine Classic


Aspen Music Festival and School
June 25-August 23, 2009

Inside the Aspen Music Festival's Benedict Music Tent  Photo by Alex IrvinInside the Aspen Music Festival's Benedict Music Tent Photo by Alex Irvin

Stately aspen groves, crisp air, majestic mountain views, and the opportunity for a surreal outdoor performance have drawn all-star performers and world-class composers like Aaron Copeland, Phillip Glass, Itzhak Perlman, Arthur Rubinstein, and Igor Stravinsky to Aspen in the summertime. Each summer 750 students come to Aspen to study with the best and the brightest in the classical music world. The groups formed by the music school include the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Aspen Chamber Symphony, and the Aspen Concert Orchestra. Performances take place throughout the summer at the Wheeler Opera House and the Benedict Music Tent. A few highlights of this year’s festival events include performances of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Mozart's Don Giovanni, a concert with jazz vocalist Natalie Cole, recitals by violinist Janine Jansen, violinist Mark O'Connor, cellist David Finckel, and pianist Wu Han, and a special event at the Benedict Music Tent with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Edgar Meyer.

With all this talent coming through Aspen, it’s no surprise the donor list to the Aspen Music Festival and School reads like a who’s who list of American billionaires. The Aspen Music Festival is a superb and unsurpassed classical music event bringing some of the best musical talent in the world to such a small mountain town. Tickets can get quite expensive for seats in the music tent, so those on a budget should delight in finding a seat on the lawn for free.

More Information: Aspen Music Festival and School

Aspen Music Festival Concert Calender


Aspen Ideas Festival
June 29 – July 5, 2009

In a tiny town so righteously obsessed with skiing and the pursuit of pleasure, Aspen Ideas Fest is a breath of crisp, intellectually-stimulating fresh air. The Ideas discussed by over 175 captains of industry, policy makers, cultural arbiters, and innovators extends far beyond the reach of the Aspen community to the wider world. The Aspen Ideas Festival is about fostering healthy and productive dialogue through seminars, panels, debates, individual presentations, one-on-one interviews, and roundtable discussions. Past festivals have included high profile guests such as Richard Branson, Toni Morrison, Bill Clinton, and Colin Powell.

This year a number of illustrious names and personalities stand out on the 2009 attendee list: Thomas Friedman, Madeleine Albright, Michael D. Eisner, Alan Greenspan, Andrew Sullivan, Condoleezza Rice, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Hundreds of other speakers and moderators will be in Aspen over Fourth of July weekend to participate in this remarkable event. Topics for mirror relevant and timely themes found in the news cycle: “Media Crack-Up,” “Darwin’s Legacy,” “Justice and Society,” “Rebuilding the American Economy,” “The Science of Being Human,” “Innovations in Education,” “Living Digitally,” and “The Middle East.”

Organized by organized by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic Magazine, The Aspen Ideas Festival draws big crowds as great thinkers, movers, and shakers converge in the Rockies. A pass to attend just one of the three day sessions is $2450 – exponentially more expensive than a season ski pass. There is an important subtext in this price differential and analysis: the productive value of a good idea diligently set in motion by a community can impact the entire world.

More Information:
Aspen Ideas Festival

Have any other events you feel would be worthy of our list? Feel free to share them in the comments!