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Bluegrass Festival

The most fun 4-day mountain party ever. At an elevation of 8,750 ft., it requires planning. If you’ve never experienced Bluegrass in Telluride, and you appreciate this genre of music- bluegrass, alternative country-, you should put it on your list. There’s nothing like it.

Tickets to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival go on sale in the fall, with locals getting a discount and pre-sale, but all tickets go fast. Telluride Bluegrass has been known to sell out in just hours for years. Calling ahead and purchasing tickets is the best option, though you can usually find some leftovers on craigslist, e-bay, or even outside of the Telluride Town Park when the time comes. Scalping is highly discouraged, and the locals operate at a vibration of kindness and karma. It’s a shared belief here that you shouldn’t make money by scalping Telluride Bluegrass tickets. And, every once in a while, some lucky festivarian might get a “miracle” – a free ticket donated to them by the grace of some stranger who has an extra they cannot use.

If you plan on camping in Telluride, you must reserve this in advance also, as spots are limited and also sell out quickly.  Bluegrass campers have the benefits of avoiding driving, getting free bus transportation, and the option of walking or biking most everywhere in town. If you do get Bluegrass tickets or if you plan to come to town in hopes of scoring some, you’ll notice Telluride barricades the town. There is one road in, and the same road out. Parking is problematic, and the barricade serves to control the traffic for the 12,000 people that arrive into the small box canyon for Bluegrass. You’ll need a pass to get in and out of town.

You’ll want to exchange your tickets for bracelets as soon as possible. Waiting until Thursday means waiting in lines-long lines. The box office is set up a few days before, and on Wednesday you can take care of this matter more efficiently. The third week in June can be unpredictable as far as the weather goes. Mostly in mid-to-late June, it’s sunny, even hot, but on occasion, it’s been known to rain, hail, or even snow this time of the year in the Western Slope. Having the right gear is necessary. Rain shells, sunscreen, hats, water bottles, and shade tents are all recommended. Many of these items you can buy locally, and the festival does supply free sunscreen and water for all Bluegrass ticket holders.

The UV index is high at this altitude, and it’s easy to get cooked in the Telluride summer sun. That’s why Bluegrass festivarians participate in the tarp run each morning, some of them sleeping outside overnight or waking at 5:00 am to get in line for entry. In the morning, when the festival gates open, ticket holders run inside in hopes of getting a good spot for that day. Some of them set up tarps in front of the stage, but further back is the sunshade section. Many of the families are found in this area, in a sea of gray and blue Kelty. There is a consciousness about the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and recycling and composting are like laws. You’ll notice all waste is dealt with mindfully. They have staff monitoring the disposal of all garbage, and the vendors are required to use compostable plates and utensils. New Belgium, the official brewery of the festival, does discount beer for the reuse of cups.  Contests happen every year for the most conscious camp sites. Plan of being green for Bluegrass.

Yes, bring the kids. Telluride loves kids, and the Bluegrass festival is no exception. Kids are free with an adult, and a whole fenced area exists just for children’s activities. You’ll find puppet shows and talent contests by the Living Folklore organization. Kids make hula-hoops, get their faces painted, bake cookies in solar ovens, and walk through the Kids Parade on Sunday of the festival. Don’t forget headphones for the little ones if you plan on getting up close, though the first aid tent does offer free earplugs. There are plenty of things for all ages to eat. The same amazing vendors are there most every year. From Greek food and Asian dumplings to fish tacos and barbeque, you’re bound to find something satisfying. And Boulder Ice Cream, lemonade, and coffee drinks are on site as well. Don’t forget to bring cash. Many booths don’t take cards. Ask anybody for the closest ATM, and you’ll be directed, though you’ll have to walk a few blocks outside the park.

Plan on getting your mind blown with good music. The regulars will be there: the King of Telluride, Sam Bush, along with Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Bela Fleck, and others like Chris Thile, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Leftover Salmon. You’ll see them play their own shows and then collaborate together in different ways.  You can also plan on surprises too…..In the past, legends like Robert Plant, David Byrne, John Prine, and others have made appearances. And, often times, you can meet the musicians in person in the merchandise tent after their set. You’ll also find random musicians jamming on the streets or outside of the park.

There’s really nothing like it, Telluride Bluegrass, amazing music, legendary performers, and the best backdrop ever- the beauty and consciousness of Telluride. It’s the festival of all bluegrass festivals. But, if you’re going to plan on it, plan for it.

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