If there’s one thing the Telluride community does well it’s lending a hand to those in need. And when the friend in need is former Telluride resident Rasta Stevie Smith, the hand extended is clad in red, green and gold. The Health Attainment Fund Benefit Fundraiser tonight (Friday) at the Sheridan Opera House features a silent auction and reggae music from a cavalcade of regional musicians, including the reunion of his former Telluride-based band, 8750. All proceeds will go to Rasta Stevie’s medical expenses for his ongoing cancer treatment.
When the San Angelo, Texas, native hit Telluride in 1983, he knew he’d found home. While camping in Ilium Valley, he expanded his mind with psylocibin and decided to make a foray into town.
“I was completely blown away how I could talk to people in a town while I was tripping,” he said. “I wasn’t even Rasta Stevie yet.”
Telluride was where he grew up, he said.
“From 23 to 37 was my childhood,” he explained.
In that time he evolved from ski bum to “Renaissance man of Rastafari and ski culture.”
Rasta Stevie was elected to Town Council and served from 1987-93.
“The community elected me as a person to represent the disenfranchised ski bum, non-property owner-worker,” he recalled. “Up until that time, they never had a voice.”
He takes great pride in being a part of the creation of Shandoka and instigating the three-mile human chain along the Spur, an early public demonstration that eventually resulted in the town acquiring the Valley Floor.
“The people of Telluride believed in a young Rasta to represent their community,” he said. “They elected me to make a change for the positive and pro-conscious development to save whatever was savable of our extremely loving, kind and conscious community. Somebody has to do something to offset the looming crass opulence.”
One of the features of this over-the-top fundraiser is the impressive lineup of bands and artists that will keep bodies moving until midnight. Among them are Joint Point, Dandylion, Koral Delaterria of Niceness, BloodPresha, Mister Kali, Mass Cypher and Illuminati Congo.
Probably the most anticipated act of the night will be the reunion performance of Rasta Stevie’s own band, 8750. Joining Rasta Stevie, who will be on drums, are original members Sister Love, Hoony, Ras Andrew and Stumpa. That band, he said, was ahead of its time. They toured the country, playing 150 nights a year in its heyday, and brought reggae to outposts of the West, where the genre was utterly unknown.
“In Kellogg, Idaho, they never even heard of Bob Marley, and now they have a thriving reggae scene,” he said. “That we are reuniting after more than 20 years of not playing makes me feel triple irie.”
Tonight’s silent auction is a massive one and includes hundreds of donated items. Auction must-haves include signed posters from Stephen Marley, Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident, as well as signed CDs from Jewel, Neil Young and 8750. There are festival and concert tickets and vacation homes in Mexico and Rasta (Costa) Rica and a bed and breakfast in Jamaica. On top of all that there’s original artwork, jewelry, photographs, gift cards for adventure sports, restaurants, healing services and more. The silent action is located in the Show Bar and bidding begins at 6 p.m.
Since his diagnosis in February 2018, Rasta Stevie dove into his chosen course of healing with the same energy and positive outlook he has for music and family. He’s chosen an alternative route with the Forsythe Cancer Care Clinic in Reno, Nevada. It’s taken him away from his family, but he’s determined that his choice will have a positive outcome.
He’s beside himself with gratitude for his former hometown for joining forces to throw tonight’s fundraiser.
“I am almost in tears, absolutely humbled and so full of gratitude for the Telluride community that’s helping me raise money this Friday in my highest time of need,” he said. “No matter what people say, no matter how many fish they throw in the punchbowl, Telluride still has the love, strength and consideration for its residents as its highest priority, and I give thanks.”
Tickets were going fast at press time. If still available, they are $20 at sheridanoperahouse.com or at the door.