Ray Cody is a busy man. While preparing for this weekend’s Telluride Autumn Classic, he took a break from spreading gravel at one of the event’s parking lots to talk cars and offerings. He quipped, “I’m always busy” with a chuckle, but Cody’s labor of love has resulted in a world-class fall celebration of all things motorized.
As the founder of the annual automotive gathering formerly known as the Telluride Festival of Cars & Colors, Cody has literally driven around the country in a touring bus to find the best classic cars and motorcycles and personally invite such owners to Telluride. The legwork has paid off, and the Telluride Autumn Classic has gained more and more traction since 2016. After the past couple of years, Cody is glad to be back without restrictions or hesitation.
“I kind of lost traction during that period. But this year it came back gangbusters, and we got great cars coming to town. We've had rallies coming this whole summer. When they come to town, we would do a catered event and try to entice them to come back to the event,” he said. “The event is definitely growing. It’s getting national notoriety in the car world. We really think we've got a tiger by the tail here.”
Starting Friday at 4 p.m. with the Cruise to Colorado, which starts at the Telluride Regional Airport and ends on Main Street with the free Cool Cars on Colorado show, the classic has something for everyone interested. This year’s theme is German cars, Cody explained. There’s also an Oktoberfest party Saturday night at the airport’s Hangar 29 from 6-9 p.m.
“Our theme this year is German cars, so we brought all German cars, and they're great cars, world-class cars. We're looking forward to spending time with them,” he added. “Then on Saturday night there’ll be people wearing lederhosen and the fraulein dresses. It'll be fun. Every year, we try to have a different kind of theme. This year, again, it's German cars and Oktoberfest. And we're just really excited about.”
Before celebrating Oktoberfest, there’s a road rally and poker run that begins and ends at the airport from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, as well as a breakfast for passholders at the airport from 8:30-10 a.m. The deadline for the photo contest is 9 p.m. Saturday, too. The concours on the golf course in Mountain Village is Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring classic cars and motorcycles. The closing reception and awards is from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in Mountain Village Sunday as well. The free Autumn Classic Fine Arts Festival is all day Saturday and Sunday in Mountain Village’s Heritage Plaza. (For more on the art aspect of this weekend’s festivities, see contributing editor Leslie Vreeland’s Orbit story in this edition.)
One aspect of the event that has grown over the years is the rallies throughout the summer, which typically entail car owners of specific makes or models meeting up in Telluride for the day.
“We're working on the rally element. Rather than our first years, the strategy for marketing was very organic. I would go to car shows around the country. I would drive a motorcoach. It's wrapped with Telluride graphics on it, and I would invite whoever the winners of those events were, and we would take care of their travel expenses or their lodging or whatever just to try to entice them to come to the event,” Cody explained. “Then when I started getting those good cars, and I could get pictures of those big cars with the backdrop of what we've got here to offer us a venue. That's how we organically started to grow.
The name change was necessary, he added, even though he had a lot of “sweat equity” in the former festival title.
“It’s lifestyle. It’s Telluride’s ambiance. It’s fall colors. It's aviation. It's vintage motorcycles. It's great food. It's great wines. It’s friends and atmosphere,” Cody said, adding that the foliage this week changed as if preparing for the festival and he hopes the community will come out to enjoy the event as well.
For more information, visit tellurideautumnclassic.com.