Smooth was the most-used word officials had in the aftermath of the 26th annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. The customary debrief session yesterday morning (Tuesday) revealed that among the many people involved — both town officials and festival staff — there were few notable problems to report. As Town Manager Rozz Herzog said, “If my phone doesn’t ring over the weekend, that’s a good thing.” And it didn’t.
Even the newest addition to the festival, the RFID wristbands worn by attendees, volunteers and staff, were introduced with few headaches. RFID (radio frequency identification) technology is similar to the chips used for pet identification and can help event planners with collecting data.
According to the festival’s director of operations, Courtney McClary Yug, fans were largely receptive to the new wristbands.
“Overall it went really well,” she said. “The new technology got a positive reception.”
John Cohn, who heads up the festival’s security team, concurred.
“These guys (festival staff) have always been visionaries,” Cohn said. “When they said they were going to introduce the RFID wristbands, I was cautiously optimistic. But they were unbelievably accepted. The reaction was 90 percent positive.”
Cohn said that despite “hundreds of glitches” front gate staff was beefed up and able to “correct anything immediately.” He also noted that the RFID wristbands, which were passed over scanners each time a festival attendee entered or left the park, made for greater ease of egress than the plastic wristbands of previous years.
Cohn related that his wife, Franny, who works at the main gate for the security team, half-joked she “wouldn’t come back” if the festival reverted to the old method of hand-checking thousands of individual wristbands upon entry.
“The old wristbands were constant confrontation,” Cohn said. “It’s not a pleasant job.”
Festival director, Steve Gumble, reported that though the transition from traditional wristbands to chipped wristbands was stressful on the staff side, it was overall positive. He admitted though he had “my obligatory meltdown on Friday before gates,” and that the learning curve was steep and quick, having the technology was a plus.
“I’m shocked at how well it went,” Gumble said.
Cohn stated he did not believe there was much fraud surrounding the RFID wristbands. Chief Marshal, Jim Kolar, said his department made fewer contacts surrounding wristbands and that the weekend was, “one of the smoothest festivals I ever worked.”
And, he noted, there were zero festival-related arrests.
Mountain Village Police Department Chief Chris Broady reported no issues over the weekend. Mountain Village hosts the festival’s kick-off concert on Thursday preceding the Telluride Town Park Friday start and the town also provides some parking throughout the weekend.
Emergency services personnel also reported a blissfully quiet weekend. Chief paramedic Emil Sante said, “It was the quietest festival I’ve ever seen. It was eerily quiet for us. It was very sophisticated.”
Telluride’s Parks and Rec Director Stephanie Jaquet who led the debrief, then turned to festival staff in attendance for their impressions of the three-day weekend.
Vendor manager Marcus Smith said that loading in vendors a day early — Wednesday — served to relieve some of the hectic nature of general load-in day Thursday. Sixteen food vendors and 16 craft vendors, he said, “had a great year.”
Rich Estes, who not only oversees park operations, but also wears his director of public works cap, said the town’s public works department was not impacted. He joked, “I have no idea why I’m there.” His official title for the festival is Master of Everything.
Ticket sales this year were robust, festival staff reported. More three-day tickets than ever were sold and fewer single day tickets, a number reflected in the fact that fewer vehicles were parked than in previous years. Additionally, the festival sold out the earliest in its 26-year history.
The overall positive vibe in the room during the debrief was universal. Director of marketing, Jacob Bomersback, noted that the success of the festival was a reflection of the town itself.
“When the festival shines on Telluride, the Telluride community shines,” he said.
Gumble was effusive in his praise for his staff.
“I have the best group of people who have me back,” he said. “My staff is the A-Team.”
He also lauded Kolar, who will be retiring soon and, as of Blues & Brews, has worked his last festival season.
“It’s been a pleasure,” Gumble told Kolar. “You get it.”