Since its debut in 2012, The Ride Festival has attracted rootsy, rocking talent to the Fred Shellman stage. Behind the scenes, that rootsy feeling is also what makes the homegrown festival feel so connected to the community and to the rock fans who settle into Telluride Town Park for three nights and two days of music.
The Daily Planet caught up with Ride festival producer Todd Creel as he was setting up in Town Park earlier this week.
“It’s a good crew and everyone knows their piece,” said Creel. “And it’s all going along smoothly.”
Creel takes pride in the fact that the event is almost entirely locally staffed. From the kid’s zone to the beer booth to the VIP catering by local cafe Ghost Town (who will deliver locally-sourced food), The Ride has a decidedly family vibe.
While weather is a perennial concern for any outdoor event — July is traditionally the onset of mountain monsoon season — Creel says that any rain will primarily affect regional folks who come for the day.
“Most of the people coming are professional festival-goers,” he said. “They come prepared.”
He’s quick to point out that with the re-vamped stage, rain won’t affect the artists at all.
“The new facility is just mind-blowing. I go down under the stage and those dressing rooms and bathrooms — I can’t believe we finally have this,” enthused Creel. “The artists are going to be happier than ever.”
Creel considered opening Lawson Field to campers this year to ensure there was enough room for them to stay in the area — a potential $30K expense — but since the main campground didn’t sell out until 10 days ago, opening an additional campground didn’t make sense.
“I think the demographic of the crowd is changing where more people are renting rooms and not camping,” Creel said.
For Creel, lodging remains “the single biggest challenge to putting on an event in Telluride” because some lodging companies assign exorbitant “festival rates” during the Ride to meet demand.
“While there are several hotel and lodging companies in the community who have been team players, I would encourage all of them — particularly the larger companies who manage the majority of units in town — to help,” said Creel. “We’re kind of all in this together.”
The part of planning the Ride that gives Creel the most joy is enlisting emerging talent.
“We can bring these artists who are just hitting their stride and I don’t really care what genre they are if they’re really good,” said Creel. “You get them on the Telluride stage and they just shine.”
Artist relations manager for the Ride, DeLanie Young, is looking forward to seeing Black Pistol Fire (3:15 p.m. Sunday) — a guitar and drum duo — and Thunderpussy (1:30 p.m. Saturday), an all-female rock quartet.
“Sometimes it’s the least-known artists who really blow us away,” Young said.
Creel notes that Dorothy (1:45 p.m. Sunday), who has played the Ride before, “is going off right now. She’s going to be good,” along with Canadian singer-songwriter Pony Bradshaw (11:00 a.m. Saturday) “who’s kind of this year’s Tyler Childers.”
The Temperance Movement (4:30 p.m. Saturday) and Big Something (6:15 p.m. Saturday) are returning to the lineup.
“They always want to come back,” said Creel. “Because there are so few of what I would consider ‘authentic rock bands,’ you repeat some of them because they’re that good.”
This year Creel sought (and was granted) the addition of Friday evening to the Ride schedule, which enabled him to book Widespread Panic as his headliner the first two nights. Jason Isbell will close the festival on Sunday.
“Isbell’s got a little country in him but he can rock if he wants to. He’s a really good electric guitar player,” noted Creel. “That’s the great thing about him — he can cover a whole variety of genres and kill all of them.”
Big Head Todd and the Monsters (6:15 p.m. Sunday) played the first three years of the Ride Festival. In fact, Todd Park Mohr was a partner in the festival’s original business structure.
“We’ve had people asking for him,” said Creel. “We love those guys. This will be a special show.”
Deb Gesmundo, who has worked the festival since the beginning, finds it original because while it’s a rock and roll festival, it’s not entirely genre-specific.
“I just enjoy being a part of the fun and entertainment that Telluride has to offer and this festival is one of my favorites to be a part of,” she said. “And KOTO radio is the beneficiary of this event and KOTO means everything to me.”
The local community radio station KOTO, the nonprofit who receives Ride beer booth proceeds, will live broadcast the event on regional FM channels (91.7, 89.3, 89.5 and 105.3) and will stream it at koto.org.
According to Heidi Sarazen, who co-produces the live broadcast with KOTO News Director Cara Pallone, all Ride artists have agreed to air their sets and most artists have agreed to interviews. Sarazen notes that there are always artists who decline to be interviewed — like this year’s headliners — due to timing and/or contract obligations.
As of press time, single-day, weekend and a handful of VIP passes were still available.
Free gondola service between Telluride and Mountain Village operates from 7 a.m.-2 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
For more information on this year’s Ride festival, go to ridefestival.com.