Fourth of July is a day unlike any other in Telluride. Yeah, we have the world class skiing during the winter months and one-of-a-kind musical festivals in the summer, but the Fourth is a party animal all its own. It’s more than a celebration of our nation’s independence; it’s about this small town community coming together for a day of revelry and camaraderie, no matter your color, class or creed. Let the good times roll, and that all started with the flyover Thursday morning, followed by the parade down Main Street — a marvelous march that includes everything from local emergency personnel to various nonprofits, and this year, a pride float created by local high schoolers.
Fire sirens and the throaty bellows of motorcycle engines — mainly American-made Harley-Davidsons — signal the official start of the parade. Jon Reasons, local biker and all around good guy, organizes the motorcycle mayhem every year and it’s become somewhat of local tradition to meet up at his pad on Pacific before leading the parade efforts.
While bikers are badass, the local veterans carrying the various flags of the Armed Forces and Old Glory that follows always receives the loudest applause, and rightfully so.
A veteran in full fatigues walked close to the crowd in order to shake hands with everyone he could reach and thank them for coming out for the festivities. A civilian shouted, “No, thank you.” He didn’t know exactly who said it, but he stopped for a moment to recognize the response before moving on.
The Brown and Dickinson family, with a large contingent from Philadelphia, was taking photos in the middle of Main Street before the parade, talking about how great Telluride and this parade in particular is. They couldn’t praise it enough.
Just up the street, youngsters Sam Tousey and Sloan Kane of Jacksonville, Florida, played catch with a football. Sam pretended to be John Elway, the best quarterback of his favorite team, the Denver Broncos.
Water guns and balloons — deployed primarily by mischievous adolescents — sprayed and splashed seemingly anyone and everyone, but no one got upset. It was a day when locals and visitors hugged and laughed at the antics.
The current president rolled tanks and other military vehicles through the streets of the capital for the first time in modern history to much applause and puzzlement, but we’re 1,938 miles from that place, and for a moment Thursday, no one in Telluride wanted to be anywhere else.
FLOATING TO THE TOP OF FIR
I cannot count the number of years I’ve watched the horses clop-clop down Main Street, Roudy making his mare high-step and arch her neck, horse apples dotting the hot pavement. The equine contingent always signals the end of the parade. It’s my cue to wend my way up the quiet streets on the sunnyside in search of my summer indulgence, the simple delight that is a root beer float. And not just any root beer float: a Telluride Historical Museum root beer float. Made from root beer made by the brewers at Smuggler’s and topped off with a generous scoop of perfect vanilla ice cream donated by the good folks at the San Miguel Country Store at the Shell station, it is not just a cool treat on a hot day, it is a benefit for the museum. I am more than happy to stuff the suggested $5 (and then some, if you’re me) into the jar and tuck into heaven in a compostable cup.
Too often, I’ve been waylaid in my mission — chatting with friends, just one more Bloody at the Buck, a sudden deluge — only to find that by the time I crest North Fir Street, museum staff are sadly shaking their heads in unison. “Sorry, we’re out.”
Not. This. Year. I’ve given up on the parade and the throngs and working, as I often do on the Fourth, finds me sequestered in the office anyway. Long before I cought a whiff of horse, I filed a story and beat feet up the hill. The farther I got from Main Street, the cooler and quieter it got. I admired the vivid flowers, abloom as if they only had three weeks to show off, and marveled at the difference just a few blocks makes on this frenetic holiday.
I was the first one, save for a few staffers, a winded, overweight couple sitting on a bench on the porch, and a gaggle of face-painted kids with a dog wearing a foam Statue of Liberty crown around her neck. I donated twenty bucks and, for the first time in too long, tucked into my museum root beer float. I daresay it was the best one ever. Sitting in the sunny amphitheater on the west side of the old Hall’s Hospital, I soaked in the simple pleasures of my modest Independence Day celebration. The town I love and have called home for 34 years has changed dramatically in the time I’ve been here, but not nearly as much as it has from 100 years ago until now. Wistfulness settled in. An impending deadline (always with the deadline) and the rapidly-growing crowds hastened my departure before I could get too nostalgic.
On my way back down the hill, the noise and heat shouldered in again, and I wondered out loud how it could possibly be OK for someone to park right next to a fire hydrant. The anxiety I get around crowds threatened to overtake me. I took a deep breath and reminded myself how, if only for a moment, I’d known calm contentment. This was the year I finally got to enjoy a museum root beer float.