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Carbondale agritourism ventures strengthen understanding of farming and ranching lifestyles, provide a first-hand perspective

Merrill and Pam Johnson hang out with the alpacas in the pasture at Cedar Ridge Ranch near Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The first thing you notice is the resounding quiet. Driving a ways up the bendy road from Colorado Highway 82, visiting Cedar Ridge Ranch is like entering a different world — one where you’re just as likely to make eye contact with an alpaca or rooster as you are with another human being.

“We have alpaca hats that come straight from the alpacas,” Pam Johnson, co-owner of Cedar Ridge Ranch said. “So you can go out and kiss the alpacas and then get a hat, and learn about the alpaca.”

Three alpacas look towards the camera for a glamour shot at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Johnson family — parents Randy and Pam and their only daughter, Merrill — moved from the hustle and bustle of the Chicagoland area over 20 years ago onto Cedar Ridge Ranch and began offering an educational, boutique ranching experience to those who came out to visit. Randy said they’ve had visitors come from not just Denver, but Saudi Arabia, Germany and Portugal, as well.

“It’s really interesting the kinds of people that we do meet here,” (Randy) Johnson, a Vietnam-era veteran and former salesman, said. “And some of the kids go, ‘Mom, the eggs aren’t white!’ you know?”

Garfield County passed an agritourism proposal back in 2013, which enabled the Johnsons to offer even more to their guests. Now, instead of just giving farm tours, horseback riding lessons, alpaca yoga and allowing visitors to collect eggs from the hens on the property, people can spend the night on the ranch in one of the various hospitality setups on the ranch property.

Pam Johnson collects eggs from the chicken coop at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I think agritourism too has this really strong capacity and opportunity to help farmers, because farming is not easy work, and it’s 24/7. … They’re just undervalued,” Merrill Johnson said. “I think agritourism opens up a place where farmers can be valued and seen more than they are today. Agritourism in general allows for the opportunity for other farmers to do something very, very similar and to be able to share what they do so other people can back or support them.”

Morgan Beidlemen was a recent agritourist to the Cedar Ridge Ranch and said she stumbled upon them by Googling ‘glamping in Colorado.’ She said the Johnson’s ranch was a perfect balance of far enough from Denver but still close to other nearby towns, so without an isolating feeling.

“I love horses and I love cows, just kind of walking around and saying ‘hi’ to them. And the alpacas were so curious; I just loved how curious they were,” Beidlemen said. “Being able to get eggs from the chickens and go back down to the yurt and cook eggs you just purchased … having that complete break from work … and (an) immersive experience of being on the ranch and all that it has to offer. … That was really what I was looking for.”

A pair of roosters sit on a doorway at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

She also spoke to the Johnson family’s hospitality and openness to educate folks who had questions about the lifestyle and the workings of the ranch itself.

“Their willingness, you know, to talk about things … talking about having a totally different life before. … Human connection, connection to nature, disconnection from technology and just beautiful (scenery).”

Sarah-Jane Johnson, a tourism project manager for Carbondale Tourism, said Garfield County is rich with opportunities for Agritourism, and Carbondale specifically has a long history of farming. Carbondale tourism recently launched a Farm + Food map highlighting local farms with Agritourism opportunities and restaurants that specialize in farm-to-table menu options.

Pam Johnson hangs out with the goats near the barn at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I love the fact that this is a visitor education tool, but I think our local community will connect with it as well and use it perhaps,” Johnson said. “You can learn about history and you can enjoy a cocktail and then you can enjoy a lovely meal. There’s just so many different layers to connect with the destination through agritourism.”

Lucy Perutz is the co-owner and chef at The Beat restaurant in Carbondale, which started as an entirely vegetarian eatery but shifted its business model during COVID-19 to accommodate local farmers who were experiencing a produce surplus and individuals who were hesitant to visit grocery stores at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We were like, ‘well, let’s translate our business to something that makes sense for the moment,’ and that turned into an online order-ahead grocery store that specialized in local foods and your staple and bulk items, too,” Perutz said. “… We had meats and some dairy, which we’ve never served meats before, but we found it kind of important to keep the farmers going … to support the entire model of local food.”

Merrill Johnson feeds an alpaca at Cedar Ridge Ranch.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The restaurant is now in a transition phase from being a grocer back into being an eatery, but Perutz said their focus will now prioritize locally grown crops on the menu, instead of being sure to offer staple dishes guests had come to enjoy but may require produce out of season to Colorado or from farther away.

“I think what we realized is really exciting is we’re gonna make awesome food and are going to provide good, quality tasty stuff that’s going to change a lot more often now because that’s just what we want to do,” Perutz said. “We want to better support the farms and if they can tell us they have a surplus of this one particular item, that’s going on the menu.”


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

Tapping into conversation: Roaring Fork Valley brewery owners cheers to community

Brewer Evan Selby lines up kegs before filling them for Casey Brewing at their brewing facility in south Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Carbondale BeerWorks owner Patrice Fuller said on this year’s National Beer Drinking Day that the beverage isn’t just for men – beer is for women, too.

“Because I think a lot of times people think … only men drink double (India pale ales). I’m pretty proud, you know, I’m a female that owns my own brewery, so that I really love. It’s not just a boys’ beer,” Fuller said.

Fuller moved to the valley and purchased the brewery just under five years ago. Her previous job was as a bar manager in Seattle at a place called Tap House that offered 160 beers on tap at a time. Fuller said she tries to bring a bit of home to BeerWorks and incorporate different brews from the Pacific Northwest in their selection of 16 handles.

“Every year you see more and more people who come in to check out the beers, — you know we have a lot of good regulars,” she said. “It’s kind of fun though when I get to buy guest taps because, like I said after having 160 handles it’s kind of cool to bring in a new beer here that no one’s ever had,” Fuller said.

Troy Casey also found his love for crafting beers through a larger brewery, Coors. Since opening his taproom and brewery back in 2014, he said there have probably been hundreds of different variations his team has made with their “old world” brewing technique.

“We are a very, very tiny brewery and just trying to focus on making beers with Colorado ingredients,” Casey said. “So, most of our sour beers are made with 100% Colorado ingredients, and then just really trying to do quality over quantity … we’re really just focused on small-batch, old world style beers with local ingredients,” Casey said.

Brewer Evan Selby does prep work before filling a keg at Casey Brewing in their brewing facility in south Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

His brewery primarily uses neutral French Oak wine barrels to store the batches they’re working on. The fermenting process of the sour beers can be anywhere from four months to two years. Beers from Casey’s brewery also come packaged with a cork in a 750mL bottle, similar to how wine is sold, and they bottle age and re-ferment as time goes on.

“By bottle-conditioning you get smaller bubbles and that sort of creamier mouth feel, and the fact that it’s bottle conditioned allows for that beer to mature just like a nice wine would. We use it for aging potential. We still got beers in our cellar from seven years ago that are just drinking great, just kind of get better with age as they go,” Casey said.

The larger bottling method is also because Casey said he believes these beers are meant to be enjoyed with company.

“We think beers like this should be shared. … Drinking it with somebody else I think makes the experience more memorable when you’re with somebody and sharing something like that together,” Casey said.

Fuller said for her, she’ll drink different beers with different people but at the end of the day it is about tapping into conversation and enjoying something with good company.

“It’s like different experiences with different people. … There are some people who I’ll just throw down and drink IPAs with, where (with) Shannon and Laney we’re gonna go get sours. It’s definitely about being open to trying things,” Fuller said.

Being able to show people they may like more than one beer is also a fun part of her job, Fuller said. She has a regular group she’s fond of that comes in each day to enjoy happy hour, but will stick to one type of beer if they can.

“I have a group of guys, every single day and all they drink is the blonde. That’s all they drink. And right now we’re out of it so they have to drink the Pilsner but we’ll bring them a (different one) … and go ‘here try this’ and they’ll taste it and give us that look then go like ‘no we just want the blonde,’” Fuller said.

Product manager Eric Metzger works on a brew at the brewing facility in south Glenwood for Casey Brewing.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Fuller also said being a part of the beer community is a lot of fun, whether you own a brewery or just like to pop into taprooms and sample some craft beers now and then, beer enables people to come together and try new things.

“It shouldn’t only happen one day a year,” she said. “Everyday should be National Beer Day. Everybody should come in and try beers and sit around and talk, see what they like and talk about different styles. Even just, you know, over a beer you get to share your experiences and life stories.”


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.

Sweet Coloradough looks to open shop in Aspen, add to existing locations

Homer Simpson would be proud.

Sweet Coloradough, a Garfield County pastry staple among sweet tooths and doughnut lovers, has three major announcements.

One: Just three short weeks from now, owner Aaron Badolato told the Post Independent on Wednesday that he’ll be opening up a storefront in Aspen. It’s set to replace the old Popcorn Wagon on South Mill Street.

And, based on the former success of their Snowmass Village storefront (now closed), Badolato has a good feeling about this planned location, which will first start off with a coffee and doughnuts-style atmosphere.

“I think Aspen will be twice as busy (than Snowmass Village),” Badolato said.

Two: In the last week of November, the Glenwood Springs location will undergo a revamp. Badolato said the kitchen will be remodeled while – and here’s the kicker – a new grocery store will take shape in the basement.

“We’ll have kind of a liquor store meets ice-cream shop, meets merchandise mart,” he said, chuckling.

Three: The Sweet Coloradough location in downtown Rifle will also undergo a series of exciting new developments. With the upstairs apartments ready for guests, Badolato said his western Garfield County shop will soon provide a bed-and-breakfast option. And with a liquor license recently approved by Rifle City Council, each room will come fully equipped with a bar.

“I’d be like when you go to Mexico and like everything’s fully stocked,” Badolato said. The bed-and-breakfast is scheduled to be open by Christmas. “That all-inclusive vibe is kind of what I’m going for.”

Also, based on the success and ease in which the Aspen shop opens, Badolato can get to making the Rifle location resemble the current experience people can find in Glenwood Springs. In other words, between February-March 2021, a full bar will line the interior of the Rifle doughnut shop.

With a full bar currently in place at the Glenwood Springs location, on any given morning a person can stroll in, order a scrumptious doughnut and accent it with a tall glass of Colorado-brewed beer.

Spirits lovers, meanwhile, might have a nip while they munch on a cinnamon doughnut. For the wine connoisseur, they might fancy a lovely cabernet with their apple fritter.

It’s all there for the picking.

This will eventually be the reality in Rifle. And like its sister store in Glenwood, the spirits, beers and wines will come straight from the Centennial State.

“We’re trying to keep that Colorado vibe as much as we can,” Badolato said. “And, most likely, free mimosas for moms on Friday.”

Beyond that, Badolato said the Rifle location will eventually include a full kitchen with a deli, which will include lunch and dinner options. Additionally, Badolato said the kitchen will likely be ready sometime in January 2021.

And, if everything goes accordingly, Badolato said he intends to have every Garfield County Sweet Coloradough include drink and additional meal options.

“That would be the ultimate goal,” he said, “to set up that same vibe in all locations.”


There’s little doubt Sweet Coloradough provides quite a unique experience for its patrons. Maybe that’s the reason why, according to Badolato’s estimation, the bakery provides about 25,000 doughnuts on a weekly basis between its existing locations.

And, perhaps it’s the reason why Badolato and his wife and co-owner Anne have found so much success over the years. He maintains that nabbing repeat customers is “a testament to doing things right.”

“(It’s) hoping to see someone again,” Badolato said of good service. “It’s the desire to have them come back as opposed to just that transactional situation. I think we take the transaction out of it in a lot of ways and focus more on the overall experience for hopefully the rest of somebody’s life.”

Sweet Coloradough opened its first shop in 2014 in Glenwood Springs. By late 2019, its delectable doughnuts and flavorful experience became so popular, the Badolatos held a grand opening of its Rifle location, which currently serves breakfast burritos, coffee and, of course, its fluffy slices of pastry heaven.

Now, with the upcoming opening in Aspen, Badolato said he looks to add 15-20 new employees to the area.

With that, Badolato was asked if Homer Simpson would agree with all the sweet things taking place in Garfield County.

“I think it would fit right in line with just enjoying his life to its fullest,” be said. “That’s how he strikes me – keep it on what I like, ya know?”


Ball Brewing to host ‘Learn to Homebrew Day 2020’ in Glenwood Springs

Ancient Egyptians did it. So did Trappist monks. 

Now it’s your turn.

To break the boredom of social-distancing – with a good chance to drink socially (in moderation) – the High Altitude Mashers Beer Club invites the public to their “Learn to Homebrew Day 2020” event. The local conglomeration of suds loving-brewmeisters prepare to demonstrate the best methods and techniques behind crafting beer from the comforts of your own home.

Class is slated for 9 a.m.2 p.m. Saturday at Ball Brewing, 7025 Colorado Highway 82, Glenwood Springs.

According to Ball Brewing brewmaster Kirstie Ennis, students of every skill level will first be given a tour through the local brewery’s entire beer-making process. Brewery owner and head brewmeister Bobby Ball, along with fellow brewer Clark Archibald, will then begin to instill their infinite beer wisdom upon their pupils.

“I mean, it’s science. Everything about beer is chemistry,” Ennis said, who’s also the beertender and designated “Elmer’s,” because she holds the place together. “Sometimes it’s trial and error to figure out how to make what you like, what you love… but actually figuring out how all the different ingredients are going to interact, and the whole process, it’s actually beautiful.”

The Bootlegger Hops are grown and harvested in the wild in Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Even for the novice brewer, the art of making beer shouldn’t be met with intimidation.

“For the ones that are beginners – they don’t even know what kind of beer that they like – obviously we’re going to give you the information so you can figure what exactly it is that you like,” Ennis said.  “So, whether it’s a blonde or if you like a porter – something a little bit darker – we can provide you that information.”

The local taproom, equipped with quirky-named, in-house craft beers like Slopeside Pale Ale, Captain Ron and Asian Persuasion, will also offer students lessons and suggestions on how to name their beer.

Ennis, a combat-wounded amputee from the war in Afghanistan, has essentially mastered the art of beer-naming by using her military experience as a muse. The 5’4” blond personally serves a beer called “Hop Along Blonde.”

“We get to sell these beers to people that obviously mean alot to me. They’re kind of funny, they’re playful, they taste great.”

A drink is poured from the tap by Ball Brewing Brew Master Kirstie Ennis
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“So when I get to serve the Hop Along Blonde – again, on my one leg – it’s pretty cool.”

And, while some may conjure up images of men blaming the pungent, yeasty fragrance wafting from the basement on their dog or perhaps their kids, Ennis also encourages more females to become brewmasters.

“I would really like to see women out here doing it,” she said. “There’s not really a lot of women brewers here in the valley and I think it would spice things up a bit.”

There are two additional reasons why teaching and encouraging Coloradans – especially Garfield County locals – to homebrew. One, locals were mostly responsible for keeping Ball Brewing, which opened its doors Feb. 8, afloat after the inception of COVID-19.

“They were really the ones that supported us through everything,” Ennis said. “So, today is really our day to really be able to give back to them.”

Also, if COVID-19 continues to skunk social gatherings and warrant further quarantine, what else better to do than to tinker with brew kettles and funnels for a while?

“Anything that you learn, anything that you see that you actually think you might want to take home with you, we have that in our store as well,” Ennis said. 

That’s when the young “grasshoppers” explore the taproom’s onsite homebrew supply store, where they can pick up brew kits as well ingredients. 

Attendees are asked to wear masks, while parties of two people of less are encouraged.

Saturday’s celebration of suds is in honor of National Homebrew Day, established in 1999 by the Homebrewers Association.


City of Glenwood looks to ‘igloo’ structures for unique, Covid-era outdoor winter dining experience

The city of Glenwood Springs plans to spend a portion of its funding for outdoor winter dining solutions to rent or possibly buy a set of heated, dome-type structures resembling igloos for restaurants to have extra seating capacity through the colder months.

The plan makes use of some of the $170,000 in coronavirus-related grant funding the city has received to help businesses adapt to distancing and capacity requirements aimed at preventing disease spread.

“We’re trying to be as creative as possible,” City Manager Debra Figueroa said during a special City Council video meeting on Tuesday. “We might fail miserably, but I suggest we need to try.”

That statement was punctuated by concerns about the potential for further restrictions, after Denver restaurants were mandated that same day to limit patron capacity to 25%, rather than 50%, given the latest uptick in new COVID-19 cases on the Front Range.

Glenwood Springs officials, including economic development specialist Matt Nunez, have been working on a variety of options to maximize outdoor public spaces along Glenwood’s restaurant row district on Seventh Street and under the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Any equipment that’s being leased or purchased by the city, including propane heating units, tables and chairs and shelter structures, is being made available on request or on a rotating basis, regardless of location in the city.

But the downtown eateries that front public spaces in particular present a unique opportunity to do something different, Nunez said.

After looking at a variety of options using large tents under the Grand Avenue Bridge or fenced open areas with heaters, City Council settled on the igloo structures, which can either be leased from a local vendor or purchased.

“These things are popping up in cities everywhere, and it’s a unique option that several of us are excited about,” Nunez said, adding that Basalt and Snowmass Village are also looking at their use. “We found them to be a little be easier to manage than the tent options.”

The geodesic dome structures are clear, about 12 feet high in the middle and can seat up to eight people, even though public health protocols may limit them to use by smaller parties or same-family parties only.

The city could purchase them for about $4,500 apiece or rent them for $5,000, including table and chair accessories and heaters, Nunez said.

“The purpose of this initiative was to support the purchase of heaters and tent equipment for local businesses and nonprofits, and to create public dining opportunities downtown to maintain restaurant patronage with adequate social distancing,” Nunez said during his presentation to council.

Already, the city has spent $10,669 to buy 77 of the vertical-style propane heaters — 52 of which have been distributed to restaurants and nonprofit organizations that requested them. The remaining units are being reserved for tourist attractions to make use of, Nunez said.

The outdoor dining equipment would be used between Nov. 20 and April 20, though there would be times when it would be too cold to have the heaters running constantly, Nunez advised when the question came up.

The city could also team with businesses or maybe the chamber to have blanket giveaways for people to use while they’re waiting for a table, he said.

Council gave direction for city staff to proceed with the project. Some of the money would also be used for maintenance, cleanup and security during hours when the units are not in use.


Barn appetit at Rock Bottom Ranch

If you wanted to enjoy one of the barn dinners at Rock Bottom Ranch this summer, you had to be quick.

Tickets went on sale at high noon on July 6, and all six dinners were sold out in 38 minutes, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Development Manager Emily Taylor said.

“I was surprised actually. But I don’t think I should have been surprised because this happens every year. Last year we didn’t sell out completely for all the dinners so quickly but one of the dinners was 58 minutes. … Last year we sold out all the dinners in 60 hours,” she said.

“I got online right at noon because from my past experience they sell out. … The one I wanted sold out in five minutes,” said Jacqui Matthews, 70, of Missouri Heights, who has been attending barn dinners for five years.

On July 7, the wait list for the first dinner had 60 people, Taylor said.

There are some differences this year compared to previous barn dinners, including one that would contribute to a rapid sell-out is social distancing.

The email announcing ticket sales had some fun with that now-familiar term, saying the dinners will be “physically distanced and socially engaging.”

Because of the distancing, there are one-third the usual number of seats this year.

“We only have 40 spots for each dinner. Normally we’ll have 120 spots,” Taylor said.

While many are uncomfortable with group events during the pandemic, physical separation offers a way diners can cope.

“We discussed whether it would be safe or not because we aren’t going out that much, but we’re going,” Lynne Feigenbaum, 66, of Carbondale said. She and her husband, Steven Wolff, went to the first barn dinner and have been back twice.

The barn dinners are served in Rock Bottom Ranch’s open-air pole barn.
Emily Taylor

The dinners being in an open-air pole barn can also alleviate some safety concerns. 

“I really have felt no need to go physically to a restaurant … but to me this feels like it’ll be the best way to do it. It’ll be literally out in the field,” Megan Rainnie, 52, of Sopris Village, said. This will be her first barn dinner.

Another difference in this year’s barn dinners is for the first time they feature chefs from local restaurants for two nights each, Thursday and Friday. The menus are not released in advance.

“It’s a surprise. But we are allowing people to choose between vegetarian and gluten-free [alternatives],” Taylor said.

From the perspective of ACES, making money is not the goal of these dinners.

“It’s an experiment this time. Usually with our farm-to-table dinners we make a little, but it’s more of a break-even model to get people to the ranch. … I wouldn’t say we’re doing it to fundraise,” Taylor said.


Backyard fruit tree gleaning fulfills many needs, including reducing bear-human conflicts

UpRoot Colorado’s mission is about reducing waste and providing food to those who need it.

“UpRoot Colorado measurably reduces surplus agriculture in Colorado, supports the economic stability of farmers and increases the nutritional security of our state’s residents,” according to the organization’s website.

It doesn’t say anything about bears.

But UpRoot’s work with backyard fruit trees could help reduce human-bear interactions, such as a recent encounter in Aspen. UpRoot co-founder Ciara Low sees that as a side benefit of UpRoot’s work.

[Reducing bear-human interactions] is definitely not a new spin on this. On a personal level it’s not what attracted me to this work or got me interested, but it’s something that I think is a definite positive to the work we do. … Reducing bear interactions with people and saving bear populations is super important and definitely feels like an outcome of the work we do,” Low said.

The organization’s purpose is to reduce food loss from farms by picking surplus, a process known as gleaning.

But the nature of farms in the Roaring Fork Valley has changed that focus.

“We are working with farms around here, but a lot of the farms we work with are small and really efficient. They don’t have a lot of excess. They get most of their food if not all of it to market. We’ve realized more and more just how many fruit trees there are in this area, and so we have in some senses turned our focus. … Most of our gleaning out here is backyard fruit tree gleaning,” Low said. 

UpRoot will glean any backyard fruit tree.

“We do edible fruit trees. … We’ll come out and inspect it. Every now and then you’ll have a tree where the fruit really isn’t tasty, and then we might advise homeowners on how to prune it or take care of it in such a way that might improve that,” Low said.

Interested homeowners are invited to register their trees with UpRoot.

“People should register, and then we can learn more about their tree and advise them. With the registry there’s no obligation, that just means they’re in our system. When their tree starts to get ripe we’ll give them a call or shoot them an email. We’ll reach out and see if they’re interested in having their tree gleaned that year. If they invite us out we’ll always leave some for them,” Low said.

Homeowners can join in if they want to.

“They’re certainly welcome to [join in]. We’re starting an initiative to advertise gleaning parties. People who have a tree can invite their friends out, they can provide the drinks and snacks, we’ll provide our equipment. We can all glean together. … We also do a lot of properties where the homeowner isn’t home,” Low said.

Gleaning sessions are typically kept to two hours.

Geneviève Joëlle Villmamizar gleans cherries from a tree in Carbondale on July 23. She is the gleaning coordinator for the Roaring Fork Valley area.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“Balancing the needs of a fruit tree owner or a farm with the stamina of volunteers (obviously, we hope to create memorable experiences that keep volunteers coming back for more), we schedule two-hour gleans,” Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar, Roaring Fork gleaning coordinator, said in an email.

Things can get busy when fruit gets ripe, but geographic diversity can help keep that in check.

“We have two gleaning coordinators … so we can tag-team a little that way when things do come ripe at the same time,” Low said. “We will often have multiple gleans in one week. Cherries are out right now, and we’re gleaning multiple times per week to get those cherries. … Our fruit trees in our registry right now are all spread out between Aspen and Rifle, and so we get that lag in fruit being ripe in those areas. We were gleaning cherries in Rifle two weeks ago, and now we’re gleaning cherries in Carbondale because the climates are different and so they ripen at different times.”

Fresh-picked cherries are bagged and ready for distribution to people in need during a gleaning session in Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

The gleaning parties have to be limited in size during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With COVID-19, we’re limiting group sizes to allow for social distancing,” Villamizar said.

It’s doubtful bears honor social distancing guidelines, and gleaners will be working when bears are hungry.

“We schedule gleans based upon when a crop or fruit tree is ripe, paired with the window of access a host can accommodate gleaning, which kind of lines up with primo bear feasting time,” Villamizar said.

UpRoot gleans fruit that is ready to eat, which does not include crabapples. Considering that bears eat crabapples, UpRoot’s backyard work will not eliminate the possibility of interactions. 

“Bears certainly do love crabapples,” Villamizar said.

However, “LIFT-UP, our region’s food pantry for those in need, provides essential staples. The average hungry family won’t necessarily have the luxury of investing a day to can apple butter but certainly values … apples to pack in a child’s lunch.

“… Plucking the crabapples from the valley’s thousands of crabapple trees … would force an altogether different mission, goal and value system,” Villamizar said.


Towns turn to public patio dining areas to help restaurants maintain social distancing standards

There’s a new scene taking shape in Glenwood Springs’ 700 block under the Grand Avenue Bridge since restaurants were allowed to reopen at limited capacity with the lifting of some coronavirus restrictions.

Three eating and drinking establishments in particular — Smoke Modern BBQ, Casey Brewing’s tap house and The Grind — have taken full advantage of the city’s new flex rules when it comes to outdoor dining areas.

Smoke founding owner Jamie Theriot hopes it might even make a lasting impression once the pandemic passes.

“With our specific location, it’s been a huge improvement to the general attitude of the whole plaza area,” Theriot said Wednesday as he was busy mixing drinks for early evening customers. “It’s really become a significant part of the whole scene down here.”

To help accommodate social distancing requirements and enhance capacity limits for local restaurants, the city of Glenwood Springs is waiving fees for the use of adjacent public plaza and sidewalk areas for patio seating. The deal even extends to any retail shops that want to make use of sidewalk areas for outside shopping space.

“We’re trying to be as creative as we can to try to help businesses as much as possible to come out of this,” Glenwood Springs Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director Jenn Ooton said.

Outdoor dining permit fees were waived three years ago to help during the impacts of the Grand Avenue Bridge construction, and never were formally reinstated, she said.

“City Council gave us permission to continue to lease those spaces at no cost, and to speed up the process for the temporary modification of premises liquor license that is required,” Ooton said.

For restaurants and stores that front street parking areas, the city is also allowing the use of “parklet” spaces (normally used for vehicle parking) to set up mobile decks, similar to what Carbondale and now Rifle have been doing.

It’s just another way to expand outdoor capacity for businesses that want to use that option to help spread people out, Ooton said.

Without the much larger outdoor seating area, Theriot said it would be difficult to make a go of it at 50% of his usual indoor dining capacity.

“We essentially were able to double our patio area and keep the same number of seats as we had before,” he said. “When the weather is good, it’s actually smoother and easier to serve people outdoors with the restrictions than indoors.”

“My hope is that when the powers that be see how it all lays out, they’ll view it as an amenity to the area that we can keep going forward,” Theriot said.

City Council also discussed the potential of closing Seventh Street to vehicle traffic to allow for expanded outdoor dining space along that stretch. However, the consensus among restaurant owners there was that they didn’t want to inhibit drive-up capability for the high percentage of customers placing take-out orders, Ooton said.


Other area towns are making the move to expand restaurants and shops into the outdoors, as well.

In Carbondale, town trustees last week approved a plan to close the 300 block of Main Street to one-way traffic, and to all but pedestrians and outdoor seating on Friday and Saturday nights, in order to accommodate expanded outdoor seating for the many restaurants that are located in that block.

A recent survey of downtown business owners, including restaurants, was supportive of the idea.

The town is purchasing barricades and other necessary infrastructure to help accommodate the planned street closure.

Once that piece is in place, Carbondale plans to close the one-block stretch of Main from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to vehicles, and to one-way eastbound traffic only at other times. That will allow the expansion of dining areas 15 feet into the street right of way. There will be no charge to the businesses.

If it catches on, the town could add a day or two to the full street-closure plan, Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

The town also agreed to be flexible if any restaurants located in private commercial plazas want to set up expanded outdoor dining space in parking areas, as long as they have permission from their landlords and work with other tenants.


The city of Rifle is also allowing expanded restaurant seating on Third Street and other places where restaurants are located adjacent to city streets and sidewalks.

A recent survey asked Rifle businesses what they were willing to do for a temporary setup this summer, and the city devised a plan to add parklets in front of restaurants along public streets.

Rifle city planner Nathan Lindquist said it came out pretty close to what the plan would be once the reconstruction of Third Street takes place next spring.

“We were able to closely follow the plan we will have, but this year we have to do it on a temporary basis and build these parklets,” Lindquist said.

Through grants, the city plans to construct five parklets at a cost of $20,000, leasing them to the businesses, with each individual restaurant responsible for keeping the area clean and monitoring it. 

Each parklet will take up three parking spots in front of the restaurants, with space for six four-top tables. No alcohol will be allowed on the sidewalk, but restaurants with liquor licenses can serve in the parklets.

Whether the weather

The use of outdoor areas for dining does mean that restaurants need to have a contingency plan for inclement weather.

“It did rain Saturday night, and it totally changed the dynamic of our service and it was harder to keep a good flow,” Smoke’s Theriot said. “When that happens, we simply go to 50% capacity indoors. Right now, we’re lucky that the weather is pretty agreeable.”

Under the public health restrictions, tables are limited to parties of six or fewer people, and reservations are encouraged, he said.

“People have been super understanding of things, even to the extent of sometimes being out of things or service being a bit slower,” Theriot said. “But we’ve also seen a level of generosity that’s not always present.

“People understand what we’ve gone through, and overall it’s been an encouraging start,” he said.

Glenwood Springs outdoor seating policy and application information can be found at cogs.us/outdoordining.


Rifle Citizen Telegram Editor Kyle Mills contributed to this report.

Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive-In to offer free hamburgers to first responders, healthcare providers Tuesday

Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive-In will provide a free hamburger Tuesday to any first responder or healthcare provider.

Between noon and 7 p.m. Tuesday, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors and nurses can pick up their free hamburger from the 67-year-old eatery along U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs.

“The way I was brought up is to help the community and do things for the community in which you live,” said Bart Victor, Vicco’s Charcoal Burger Drive-In owner.

Victor has lived in Glenwood Springs for 43 years.

The local business owner said he simply wanted to say thank you to those community members serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Roll into the oldest drive-in in town and have a great burger,” Victor said. “I just feel like we owe it to these people.”


Friday E-dining: Pullman hosts meal over Zoom

On Friday, The Pullman restaurant is hosting “the next in a regular series of (irregularly scheduled)” dinners, as the shtick goes.

The catch?

You have to stay home.

And no matter how slowly you eat, you’ll be Zooming though your meal.

It may or may not be the first dinner hosted through Zoom in the history of mankind, “But it’s certainly a first for us,” said Mark Fischer, chef/owner of The Pullman.

It will be a meal, a distanced gathering, an experiment. The event flier says, “Consider a Wi-Fi connection and Zoom as the new shared table; your computer as the new place setting, where you entertain separately but together. And just enjoy the weirdness/awkwardness/päntsdrunkenness of it all.”

The what?

According to “Päntsdrunk: The Finnish Path to Relaxation,” päntsdrunk means drinking at home, alone, in your underwear. So be careful where your computer camera is pointing. What happens on Zoom may not stay on Zoom.

Some diners may opt to eat quietly, while others may boisterously skoal at the beginning of each course.

“I have no idea what to expect. I’d like there to be some degree of interaction,” Fischer said.

Wouldn’t it be … noisy? “As host, we have the ability to mute participants. But then, wouldn’t a cacophony of clinking be kinda good? It is, after all, about dining together,” Fischer said.

And he is decidedly unconcerned about things going awry. “I kinda like the idea of losing control of things,” he said.

Sounds like this meal may require seat belts.

Tickets were limited to 50 couples and have sold out. “In-house dinners typically sell out at 90 guests,” Fischer said.

The meal itself is the Roaring Fork Beer Company “virtual” beermakers dinner, with RFBC brewmaster Chase Engel talking about how the beers pair with each of the four courses, such as the dessert of Salty Chocolate 2-Minute Microwave Cake and Earl Grey Ice Cream paired with Dark Corners Variant Stout. The full menu can be viewed on the website, www.thepullmangws.com.

Four courses is scaled down from The Pullman’s typical dinner events. “Our tasting dinners are typically five to six courses. We thought it might be more approachable to simplify things,” Fischer said.

At $80 per couple, the price is lower as well. “It’s less than our typical dinner. For obvious reasons,” Fischer said.

The mechanics are explained in detail on the event flier on the website, but first of all, food and beer can be picked up curbside at the restaurant from 1–6 p.m. on Friday or delivered to downtown Glenwood Springs addresses.