Summer in Colorado can only mean one thing to bluegrass devotees: it’s time to pack for Telluride. The famous bluegrass festival is in its 44th year and shows no signs of stopping. This year, headliners Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, Dispatch and Jason Mraz will join beloved favorites like Sam Bush, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, the Punch Brothers, Elephant Revival and so many more musicians on the beautiful stage. If this is your first time making the trek to Telluride or you are a die hard returner, here’s the scoop on how to best prepare for these four days beginning June 15, 2017.
Ah, yes. The standing in the scorching morning heat in hopes of scoring the best spot inside the venue. If you are willing to wait for the doors to open and want to beat out the other fans, make sure to head to the downtown scene before 7 a.m. hits — I’m telling you the truth. Otherwise, come later in the afternoon to skip the heaviness on the lines. Families and friends will bring their lawn chairs and mats to wait for the doors but because of the mass chaos that could ensue, the festival has created numbers that they give to those waiting, then you wait your turn to get in. You are also not allowed to wait outside with tents and this rule helps ensure there is no overnight waiting (seriously, this happens). And once inside the festival, concert-goers — known as Festivarians — are allowed to sit on empty mats until the owner returns. This helps foster a kind and friendly atmosphere, which is easily felt inside a bluegrass space. So no pushing, no shoving and sorry — no doggos allowed.
Make sure to bring some shade, even if you find a lofty space under a billowing tree in Town Park. That being said, these hot summer days in the mountains turn pretty cold in the evening. So if you’re coming from out of state or even the city, add some blankets and layers to your packing because the weather is going to dip down to remind you of springtime evenings. There are no fires allowed at any of the campgrounds and you can check here for more details that pertain to your specific spot.
Topping the list of must-haves? Nightgrass Tickets. These evening shows are separate from the festival and tickets are bought via a lottery. It gives festival goers an opportunity to see bands like Yonder Mountain, the Punch Brothers and Elephant Revival in a more intimate space — the shows can allow for more raucous activity, too. The concerts are held at Sheridan Opera House, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, Palm Theatre and Telluride Conference Center. However, if you weren’t lucky this year with Nightgrass, make sure to write a list of all the acts you don’t want to miss because there will be times throughout the day and night where you’ll need to replenish with food and drink or feel a desire to check out some of the workshops. All of the workshops take place at Elks Park — and my personal must-have is seeing Sam Bush, Pastor Mustard and Kooster McAllister give a workshop titled “Howling At the Moon, How a Professional Party Became the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (aka TBF’s Neverland Beginnings).” For more basic must-haves, bring a camel back or large water bottle because you can fill them up inside the festival and you will want to, make sure your chair is low to the ground to get a spot up front and don’t forget the sunscreen, people.
Unlike a lot of festivals, you can bring food inside to nibble on throughout the day. But the festival also brings in such bona fide food trucks. All the food trucks are local vendors and they come in by invitation only by the Telluride Bluegrass. So you know it’s going to bring you back to life once you’ve had too many beers or danced in the heat for too long. And honestly, the food line-up is just as spectacular as the music line-up and there’s something for everyone, even your meat-eater Uncle Dave and your vegetarian sister Sarah. Sadly, you cannot bring in your own booze. But if my memory serves me correctly (and it does), there’ll be bloody marys, margaritas and of course, beer, for sale. The festival celebrates everything local, even the booze. So keep your 12-pack at your tent site and get ready for a day of folk music, booze and food with your favorite people.
For more information, you can visit the Telluride Bluegrass Festival here.