Telluride Town Council held a discussion at its Tuesday meeting about the return of The Ride Festival as the summer’s third major event. In attendance were, from left, Jessie Rae Arguelles, Geneva Shaunette, Mayor DeLanie Young, Adrienne Christy, Meehan Fee and Dan Enright. (Screenshot by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

The Ride Festival would like to return to Telluride Town Park next year, and in a Tuesday morning work session, Town Council discussed the proposal with town staff and festival director Todd Creel.

The Ride, which featured both up-and-coming and marquee rock ’n’ roll music acts in its years on the Town Park stage, relinquished its early July dates last year after being canceled in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and moved the summer gathering to private venues in town. Creel, in April of this year, submitted an application to return in 2023 on Sept. 29-30 and Oct.1. With a cap of 9,000 attendees, the return of The Ride to Town Park would herald the return of a third major festival, joining the Bluegrass and Blues & Brews festivals in that category.

Town parks and recreation department director Stephanie Jaquet outlined a number of talking points for the discussion. She noted that within two weeks of the requested new dates, a number of events take place, including Telluride Blues & Brews, Autumn Classic (formerly called Cars & Colors), Mountains to Desert, Suicide Prevention Walk, and, in October, Original Thinkers and Telluride Horror Festival.

Jaquet also pointed out that park use at that time is abundant. Soccer season for both youth programs and the adult co-ed recreational league is in full swing and would be impacted for both games and practice in the five-to-seven days the festival would need in the park for performance, set-up and breakdown.

Jaquet additionally expressed concern that the festival fields could be negatively impacted.

“Dependent on weather conditions, the proposed event and associated crowd may negatively impact the playing fields for the remainder of fall programming,” she wrote in her staff memo. “Potential field damage this late in the season when the grass is going dormant will be more difficult to recover and repair ahead of the winter season, which could affect spring field use and programming.”

Council member Adrienne Christy shared her concerns about the impacts on Town Park mid-autumn.

“We have heard from our community that I think that people are asking us to say ‘no’ when appropriate. And I think that just seeing parks and rec have discussions about the park and that it's busting at the seams and how to weigh and manage all of the requests that are coming in, at some point, we have to say ‘no,’” Christy said. “That being said, I feel like I'm a ‘no’ but … if there was just a little bit less impact, specifically to park use, I could go along with it, but I recognize that that significantly impacts the bottom line for a business that has to exist. Just the idea of making our soccer league play their championship game in a different place … I know that's very simple and very small, but that's our community. Those are the people who live here, it's their park and to make them go somewhere else, I know it's just one game and that's only a couple people, but just the principle of that, like what does that mean? What are we saying to our community? I think it's important to consider those types of things.”

Council member Dan Enright was also reluctant to support the date change, much as many in town thrive on live music events.

“The feedback I hear from locals is that having another major event at the end of the season feels less like a benefit and more like a burden for the people I have spoken to.” Enright said. “Yes, we want to level out some of our season but having another big thing right at what is traditionally the end of our season … people are looking forward to the slowdown come early to mid-October and … are looking forward more to a little relief by that time of year.”

The new requested dates also place Telluride Blues & Brews Festival just two weeks prior. That fest has, for over a decade, served as the end-of-summer celebration. Steve Gumble, festival director for Blues & Brews and the August Jazz Festival, said having a major festival in late September-early October was impactful on resources crucial to event success.

“I want to make it really clear that I'm not against another music festival in town … we love music in this community, but I have to let you know that I'm adamantly opposed to the timing of this festival,” Gumble said. “I think it boils down really to one word and that's resources or the lack of in this instance.”

Gumble and others said attracting volunteers has been an issue for event managers throughout the year, and that the assessments made by law enforcement and emergency medical personnel needed to be taken into consideration.

In Jaquet’s staff memo, Telluride Chief Marshal Josh Comte said that hiring the reserves his department needs would be problematic.

“Finding reserve officers will be a challenge,” Comte wrote. “Historically, this has been one of the busier events for TMO staff and requires more reserves. For the last three festivals, we have only been able to get seven reserves wherein the past, we had upwards of 15. Furthermore, Blues and Brews is scheduled two weeks prior which will also require reserves. I believe it is unlikely we will be able to get the same reserves, if any, for this festival given its proximity to Blues and Brews. Given current staffing shortages, it is unknown if neighboring agencies will be able to assist.”

The Ride, according to the application for dates, would have shorter hours Saturday and Sunday, with a single, headlining show Friday evening. Creel expressed flexibility when it came to different dates, possibly in August, a point some on council said was appreciated.

Ultimately, it will be the town’s parks and recreation commission that decides whether to approve the request, though council can — and has — overruled decisions made by its lower boards. Council, needing more information and feedback from potentially impacted park users, was unable to give specific direction. Creel could revise his application, which would precipitate a different analysis from staff. It was agreed that the matter would be taken up at the parks board’s Oct. 19 meeting.