A quick look on local social media accounts is a sure indicator that — for lovers of the fruits of the forest — “it’s time.” King boletes, hawk wings, amanitas and more seem to have pushed up overnight, goaded by the ideal conditions of late — lots of moisture and perfect temperatures. It is time, indeed, for the 39th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, which takes place today (Wednesday) through Sunday.
The theme of this year’s festival — “Healing the Mind, Healing the Planet” — is an indicator that every aspect of the fascinating fungi will be examined. From its culinary wonders to its healing properties, from its uses in making beer to how to cultivate your own, the festival is offering a full range of forays, talks, workshops, poetry circles and, yes, a parade.
Ashley Coady Smith is the festival’s operations manager with a slew of duties on her plate. Though her heart beats in the kitchen, she’s looking forward to learning more about the many applications of mushrooms.
“One thing I hope to learn more about at this year’s festival is how mycoremediation can improve soil and water quality, and ultimately integrated in our community infrastructure,” she said.
A hospitality desk will be open throughout the week for festival programs, information and conversation, while the registration and signup desk will be in Elks Park. They each open at noon today and 8 a.m. for the balance of the festival.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at the Palm Theatre, the keynote lectures take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Each of them delves into recent advances in mushroom research. Thursday, David E. Nichols, PhD, adjunct professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry at the University of North Carolina, will speak on current research into psychedelics and the promise being shown in the areas of mental health and psychiatry.
Friday at the Palm, Guiliana Furci of The Fungi Foundation of Chile will advocate for bringing mycology into schools, in hopes of it becoming as much of an educational building block as history or math.
Trad and Olga Cotter will lead a call to action in Saturday’s lecture, which is aimed at recruiting more “mycowarriors” for what is described in the program as “the time to assemble our collective mycelial push to create global change and to cement the visions that are the foundation of the Telluride Mushroom Festival.” The Cotters own and operate Mushroom Mountain in South Carolina, where practical applications of mushrooms in ecological recovery, alternatives to pesticides and food production are explored.
As with many festivals, passholders are admitted first and individual tickets will be sold, if available, to many of the festivals numerous talks, workshops and demonstrations.
Local poet, farmer and politician, Art Goodtimes is a founding member and, according to program literature, “a driving force” and poet in residence of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. He’ll be leading Enthneogenic Gourds Circle: A Free-Form Discussion of Personal Enthneogenic Experience. Modeled after the Talking Gourds poetry circles, participants will have an opportunity to “pass the gourd” and share individual impressions of what psychoactive mushrooms can do for the human condition.
“Social attitudes are changing about entheogens nationwide,” Goodtimes said. “More people are coming to believe, as Telluride Mushroom Festival founders Dr. Manny and Joanne Salamanca did, that psychoactive mushrooms are medicine.”
Numerous free events take place for the curious, including the unveiling of the festival Mycobeer with mycologist Cotter and other fest luminaries who will toast to this year’s gathering with the newest mushroom-infused brew. Book signings, cultivation workshops, identification sessions, numerous lectures, an open myc night and more are open to the public.
For those who love the thrill of the hunt, guided edible forays take place Thursday-Saturday at 11 a.m. The forays are offered at varying degrees of difficulty so it’s easy to choose one that best meets one’s personal fitness level. Some forays will also require a vehicle get to the trailhead. Signups are at the SHOW bar. The finds from each foray will be identified and put on display in the tent at Elks Park.
Conditions have been fruitful and there’s nothing better than a heart-thumping excursion into the outdoors to balance sitting still in a dark theatre.
“This year looks to be a great mushroom year,” Goodtimes said. “The talks and everything will be wonderful. But it’s being out in the San Juans foraying that will be spectacular.”
For those, like Smith, who revel in the possibilities the mushroom presents chefs, the culinary component of the festival is front and center. Two popular food events are taking place in the Telluride Transfer Warehouse in a partnership with Telluride Arts. While the Friday Wild Foods Dinner with Katrina Blair is sold out, the Saturday Chef Showcase: Mushroom Tasting from 12:30-2:30 p.m. “will be a blast,” Smith said. It’s a social cooking party featuring mushroom-themed small bites that will have entertainment and the festival’s Mycobeer on tap. It’s free for passholders and $20 for walk-up attendees. The food events are right up Smith’s alley.
“My interest in mushrooms is very much food related,” she said. “I love the connection to the earth and forest that foraging offers. Quietly walking off the beaten path, intently looking for hidden treasures, and then proudly carrying home your bounty and sharing a meal straight from the forest with friends.”
As if to emphasize the “fun” in fungi, the festival’s annual parade is a crown jewel in the week’s packed calendar. Like any good Telluride parade, there are wildly creative costumes (and a costume contest), drumming and dancing.
For a complete schedule and more information, visit tellurideinstitute.org.