fire fest

“Love 2,” a flaming sculpture by Keith D’Angelo at the Telluride Fire Festival. D’Angelo will debut his latest incendiary work at the Telluride Ski Resort during the fest’s Fire on the Mountain event next week. (Photo by Suchitra Baker)

Incendiary displays, surrounded by acres of frozen white. Art you ignite, which turns to ashes and then disappears.

Many festivals in Telluride leave something behind: T-shirts, musical downloads, bloated bellies, hangovers. But the Telluride Fire Festival pretty much vanishes without a trace. Nor is the way it displays its art — such as at Fire On the Mountain next Saturday night, during which artworks you can view by day will be ignited, flame up and ultimately disappear — the only singular thing about this remarkable festival.

Thirty-three years on, the original Burning Man gathering in the Black Rock Nevada desert has inspired a host of flaming regional events: Burning Flipside in Texas, Firefly in New England, Burning Seed in Australia and AfrikaBurn, to name a few.

What the Telluride Fire Festival has, that none of the rest of them does, is this: “We’re the only ‘burning’ event on snow,” said the festival’s cofounder Erin Ries. Among next weekend’s high-lights:


Sure, you can splash out and spend $1,500 to secure a table with an up-close view of the incendiary goings on at the Fire Ball next Saturday evening.

“If someone wants to throw down $1,500, they get their own little private, raised platform seating area for themselves and nine other people, and their own private drinks server,” Ries said. Which could be “kind of fun,” Ries acknowledged, “but is probably more for someone who wants to celebrate or doing something with their friends.”

But as Ries is quick to point out, much of the fest will cost you nothing except your time. Next weekend brings free classes at the Wilkinson Public Library, ranging from “Musicality In Motion” (a class on “mood, music and thought patterns” on Friday), beginner unicycling, “Hoop Juggling” and “Hoop: Creating Lines with Circles” to a flaming “Dragon Staff” workshop Sunday morning. (The workshops require you to sign up in advance at

The festival is collaborating with the Ah Haa School to offer a two-day workshop on “flow art” (the come-and-learn fee is $30, or more, if you’d like to take a fire prop home with you).

“You can ski past the sculptures we’ll be setting on fire during Fire On the Mountain next weekend,” Ries said.

Preview the sculptures around Wednesday or so; watch them go down in flames Saturday night (a ticket costs $10).

New this year is a dance event in a bigger venue. “We did a small test event at the Palm’s Black Box Theatre,” Ries said. “It was standing room only. This year, Homestead Circus Productions,” an acrobatic troupe out of Paonia, is returning, “and we’ve paired them with the Telluride Dance Collective for a one-night show at the Palm Theatre, called ‘Pulse,’” Ries said. You’re likely to get a seat (there is seating for more than 600) and excellent viewing besides, on the Palm’s big stage.

“It’ll be really exciting,” Ries said. “There’ll be aerial silks, and belly dancing and modern dancing. It’ll be very theatrical, costumed, unique.”

There is, as you might guess, no fire allowed at the Palm, which isn’t to say there’ll be a lack of creative heat. If literal flames are what you seek, acts at the open-aired Transfer Warehouse will supply them both Friday and Sunday (“Pulse” takes place after the first performance at the Warehouse Friday, so you don’t have to miss either performance).

Keeping the metaphorical creative heat, well, glowing is the most satisfying part of Telluride Fire Festival, according to Ries. “There are some artists that come every single year,” she explained. “We were instrumental in helping one artist, Keith D’Angelo, change his life. He used to work for a steel fabricator in Denver.”

As a result of his work at the festival (D’Angelo will debut a flaming sculpture with a “burning love” theme this year at Fire on the Mountain), “he’s basically been able to move here and realize his dream. This year, he’ll be building a big wooden heart on a stand; at night,” alight, “it will look like a heart floating in the sky, on fire. That’s the whole reason for the festival,” Ries added, “to promote and help these emerging artists. At Burning Man, huge installations for a crowd of 70,000 burn to the ground,” but you have to travel to Black Rock to see them.

Next weekend, works will go up in flames right here.

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