Inaugural gay summer event debuts in Aspen, continues through weekend | VailDaily.com

Inaugural gay summer event debuts in Aspen, continues through weekend

Erica Robbie, The Aspen Times

Scores of colorful characters are swapping the slopes for floats and apres ski for "poolside tea" as an LGBTQ-aimed summer event debuts in Aspen.

In partnership with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and National LGBTQ Task Force, Men's Vows, an online magazine catered to weddings between men, is hosting the three-day "Aspen Summer Holiday," which kicked off Thursday.

Similar to Aspen's 40-year-old Gay Ski Week, the event aims to draw members of the gay community from all over to recreate by day and party by night. While Aspen Gay Ski Week draws thousands of visitors in January, organizers of the summer event declined Thursday to share ticket sales data.

The weekend agenda includes hiking, biking, rafting and horseback riding trips as well as dinners, mixers, parties and a fashion show.

Aspen Summer Holiday is "first and foremost fun," Men's Vows editor-in-chief and co-founder Eduardo Braniff said. "But you can have fun while doing good as well."

Also like Aspen Gay Ski Week, 100 percent of the parties' proceeds will benefit three organizations: the National LGBTQ Task Force, One Colorado and The Generations Project.

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AspenOUT — the local nonprofit that hosts Gay Ski Week each year — is not involved in the summer iteration.

Gay Ski Week event producer Pamela Herr said that while a partnership between the two LGBTQ-focused groups seems "like a natural fit," AspenOUT lacks the financial backbone to invest in a first-time event.

"When it comes down to the nuts and bolts and business aspect of it, it's not what we do. We're a nonprofit first," Herr explained. "As small as we are, we don't have $10,000 to lose. We just couldn't take that risk financially this year."

Comparing a business with a nonprofit, Herr added, "isn't apples to apples at all."

"And I think that's been hard for other people to understand."

That said, Herr is pleased other Aspen organizations are partnering with the inaugural LGBTQ event.

"Aspen's always been open and welcoming of LGBTQ events. But for chambers, cities (and) municipalities to actually put their name on it, that's a big deal," Herr said, "because I've been doing this a long time, and that hasn't always been the case."

While AspenOUT has promoted tolerance and diversity for more than 20 years, some argue it is more important now than ever given the current political climate in the U.S.

"I think every level of support is important at this moment," Aspen native Wes Graham. said "As a local and a young, gay community member, I'm proud of this community for many reasons, but one is how welcoming it is (of) any minority of any sort."

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