"The CDC says we don't have to wear them anymore, so let's burn ’em," says Michael Beck, marketing director for Patriot Pros Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electric, which is hosting a cookout on June 18 in Castle Rock with a special dish: $100 service vouchers for anyone who burns a face mask at the cookout's fire pit.
"Prior to the pandemic, we used to do cookouts and things like this all the time," Beck explains. "We would just invite people to come out and have a burger with no expectations from them at all. Just to meet the communities and get to know them." And while this particular cookout is billed as a unique event for people who burn their masks, he admits that the company regularly gives out such vouchers.
"As far as the $100 voucher thing is concerned, that's to just throw kind of a fun incentive in there," Beck says. "That's something we typically give to homeowners or wives, anyway, if they were to be with us for any significant jobs or anything like that."
The company wouldn't have hosted an event like this six months ago, but with mask mandates lifted, the time is right, Beck says. Even so, he acknowledges that the move might upset some people.
But then, Patriot Pros is no stranger to backlash for its patriotic misfires. The business drew the ire of the Anti-Defamation League in December when it posted a digital sign with an image of a Nazi shooting a Jew in a concentration camp, along with the caption, "Hitler gave Jews the gift of gun control, you know, because he cared about their safety." The company's owner, Javier Hoggard, later apologized, saying that the sign was intended as commentary on government overreach of the Second Amendment.
Jon Caldara, columnist and director of the libertarian think tank Independence Institute in Denver, is the self-proclaimed "OG" of mask-burning events: He hosted a mask-burning party at the institute last month. "It is a joyful thing to burn your mask," he says.
The Patriot Pros cookout is part promotional event, part community outreach and part hiring event, says Beck, adding that the company is flooded with business requests right now and looking for "really great people" to provide "five-star service." The cookout will run from noon to 3 p.m. at 701 Park Street in Castle Rock.
Caldara has some advice for the mask burners there.
"Words of wisdom: One, the cotton masks burn beautifully and long, and you can roast marshmallows and wienies to your heart's content," he advises. "The little blue paper ones: Watch out. Those smell bad."
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