KOTO is cool. Even Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder knows that. During the band’s 2016 appearance at The Ride Festival, the legendary frontman publicly acknowledged Telluride’s community radio station. The set will be part of Saturday’s KOTOride broadcast. (Courtesy photo)

Earlier this year, Michael Martelon, Telluride Tourism Board president and CEO, tried to fathom what Telluride might look like without its vibrant summer festivals.

“Empty,” Martelon said at the time. “Less culture, less excitement, less commerce, less comradery, less teamwork, less community, less of what makes Telluride, Telluride.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped the summer slate clean, including Mountainfilm, Bluegrass, Blues & Brews, wine and yoga festivals already. This weekend would have been the 2020 edition of The Ride Festival.

But festival founder and promoter Todd Creel officially canceled this year’s show on April 17 due to coronavirus concerns, and while he was disappointed to have to call off the event, he wasn’t necessarily devastated. 

“We considered moving to fall but decided it was best to play it safe, let people know early and offer refunds to those who needed them,” he said.

Creel is grateful that over half of all early bird ticket buyers opted to keep their tickets for 2021. 

“Those folks are the foundation of the festival,” he said.

While the 2020 lineup had not been officially announced at the time the event was canceled, Creel added that many of this year’s artists have agreed to perform at the RIDE festival in 2021 along with additional acts.

“We plan to bring back most of the artists who were confirmed this summer, so we are not announcing bands on the 2021 lineup just yet,” he said.

In an attempt to salvage any remnant of Ride rock, Creel tried to organize live music events for this weekend, but those plans were scrapped last week when Governor Jared Polis again closed bars across the state as virus cases have increased slightly. 

“We were planning to present a show on Main Street on Saturday in connection with our opening of the Ride Lounge in the old Roma building above Wood Ear,” Creel said.

But all is not lost, as KOTO will broadcast gems from Ride archives for a full day of rock music Saturday.  Engineered by four volunteer DJs, KOTOride will feature sets by Ride stalwarts Temperance Movement and Big Something; appearances by Muddy Magnolia, Rival Sons, Kaleo and John Butler Trio; and show-stealing performances by Beck and Pearl Jam.

Creel handpicked the sets himself in offering a cross-section of “more obscure” as well as “well-known” artists.  

“It should be an entertaining look back,” he said.

KOTO radio, the nonprofit partner of the festival, runs the beer booth in the general admission area and earns nearly 9 percent of its annual revenue from beer proceeds.

“Todd has been so good to KOTO over the years and is always willing to do anything to support the radio, so it feels good to honor what would have been the ninth annual Ride Fest with this single-day lineup of archived performances,” KOTO Executive Director Cara Pallone said.

The KOTOride broadcast kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will run just past 10 p.m.

“If you missed Pearl Jam in 2016, now's your chance to hear it. So many locals remember that day as ‘the best day of my life’ for various reasons, and I would agree,” Pallone said. “It was the best day for KOTO, too, because Eddie gave us a massive shout out on stage.”

Earlier this year, Creel sought and earned Telluride Town Council approval to add an extra night of music Friday to the traditionally two-night festival. He intends to pursue a three-night booking for 2021.

For a full broadcast schedule or to donate, go to KOTO.org.