Uniting 50 disadvantaged children from all over the United States from places like Atlanta, Georgia, Wichita, Kansas, and Phoenix, Arizona, Telluride Colorado’s Wild West Fest offers a summer experience to remember. Each summer, early on in the season, young people ages 12 to 18 from Boys and Girls Clubs of America, along with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, arrive in the Western Slope of Colorado for a week of western culture that includes arts, experiential learning, and many outdoor activities. In the majesty of the Telluride area, these young adults learn valuable skills, ideas, and values that can last a lifetime and that they can take with them when they leave.
Besides discovering the beauty of the mountains in the San Juans, kids discover other things about themselves: music, fly-fishing, horsemanship, theater, dance, crafting, mining, cooking, and more through the Chip Allen Mentorship Program. While on one level, these kids are learning about culture and history, on another, they learn to embody person traits like self-confidence, empowerment, trust, leadership, self-worth, and cooperation. And they do this through learning about the land, the environment, and relationships with the earth and its peoples. This is in addition to the other exciting traditions like the annual cookout at the incredible Schmid Ranch, movie night at the Sheridan Opera House, outdoor concerts, and swimming in the Ouray Hot Springs.
With local Telluride experts in various fields serving as mentors for the Telluride Wild West Fest group, the young men and women are able to experience first-hand what it’s like to participate in the amazing things the local landscape has to offer. These mentors set up a space that is both supportive and also challenging. This balance helps these inner city youth have an experience that can set them up for success and learn about possibilities- ones that they might not have otherwise.
Founded by the Sheridan Arts Foundation, a Telluride non-profit, Telluride Wild West Fest generously covers all expenses for the Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, with the exception of travel. Through the support of sponsorship, (a donation of $1,000 enables one child to attend the Wild West Fest) this is made possible. Many Telluride restaurants, businesses, and community members give to see the Wild West Fest happen every summer.
Telluride Wild West Fest can be the opportunity that some kids get once in their lives, and some never at all. It’s the Telluride way, the consciousness that exists in the valley- a desire to give people something they could never give themselves. It’s also a way of honoring the place that locals call home, by sharing the beauty and opportunities of the Telluride canyon with others who may not be so fortunate.
Hats off to the Telluride Wild West Fest, and all of the generosity the Sheridan Arts Foundation and others offer that make the dream come true for so many young people each year. To find out more or to contact the Sheridan Arts Foundation in support of Wild West Fest, email [email protected].