While many festivals are greenlighted for the 2021 summer with restrictions in place, typical sights like shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, food and craft vendors, and "Free Hugs" will likely not grace Town Park's festivals this year. (Planet file photo)

Last summer was an odd one indeed, with Town Park devoid of the buzzing crowds of thousands of festival-goers for the first time in several decades. This summer, hopeful locals and festival enthusiasts alike can look forward to the slow, steady rollout of normalcy, barring, of course, an untenable resurgence of COVID-19. As public health metrics currently appear, officials and festival organizers are moving forward with plans for scaled-down versions of the usual festivals.

Elements, like unchecked crowd sizes and even many of the traditional venues, will differ from the festivals’ pre-COVID standards, but many organizers have expressed their hopes of offering live music in whatever form it must take this summer.

“We are trying to do the best we can to adapt to the situation as it exists and bring back some form of live music this summer,” said Ride Festival producer Todd Creel.

The Ride festival, which typically takes place over a weekend in mid-July, announced earlier this week that it will offer an expanded run this summer with 10 days of music from July 2-11 at seven indoor and outdoor venues throughout town. The lineup, Creel said, will be announced in mid-May.

“We’ll be going at capacities that are allowed at that time,” he said. “For now, we kind of just have to wait and watch.”

The Telluride Bluegrass Festival, meanwhile, is also moving forward with plans for a live, albeit altered, festival this summer. Organizer Craig Ferguson noted that fans can look forward to “two consecutive minor events,” for which tickets will go on sale early next week, he said.

The adapted Bluegrass will offer shows the traditional weekend of summer solstice, June 17-20, as well as an additional weekend of music Friday through Sunday the weekend prior to the solstice on June 11-13. Both weekends will proceed with an operating capacity limit of 2,500 festivarians who can congregate inside the festival in “corrals” of up to 10 people, according to Ferguson.

As stated on the Planet Bluegrass website, this means that “there is the possibility that there will be no leftover corrals to go on sale to the general public, and we want to set this expectation on the front end.”

Beginning May 19 at 10 a.m., San Miguel County residents will be able to purchase Bluegrass weekend passes exclusively at Telluride Music Company on 333 West Colorado Ave., according to a recent Bluegrass announcement. Passes for groups of 10 are $3,000 for the first weekend and $4,000 for the second weekend.

Mountainfilm, meanwhile, has announced plans for an in-person festival over Memorial Day weekend. In addition to the limited in-person events, the festival will continue to offer Mountainfilm Online, with nearly all films and some events offered virtually for those who can’t or choose not to attend in-person events.

“We’re really excited that we’re able to do something for our local Telluride community,” Cara Wilder, Mountainfilm’s marketing manager, said of the in-person events. “Even with the restrictions, we’re confident that people will still be able to find that Mountainfilm feeling.”

This year, the documentary film festival’s venues will be split between free and ticketed venues. The Palm Theatre, High Camp (the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village) and the Transfer Warehouse will require tickets, while Base Camp (at Town Park) and the Lawson Hill Fields will offer free outdoor events in the evenings on a first come, first served basis due to capacity limitations. In addition to films, festival-goers can attend ticketed presentations in the “Speaker Series,” while the “Free-Range Programs” will offer free in-person events with sign-up available at Elks Park 30 minutes prior to the event.

This year, all Mountainfilm events that are not free will be filled by individual ticket purchases, which must be pre-reserved. Tickets for the general public will go on sale on May 19 at 9 a.m.

Other festivals currently planning in-person events in some capacity include Jazz Fest, Blues & Brews, Film Fest, Balloon Fest and the Telluride Yoga Festival, though this list is not comprehensive.

This week, Telluride officials decided to cancel the annual Fourth of July celebrations, including the parade, fireworks and picnic, for the second year running, citing the difficulties posed in maintaining capacity limitations and social distancing.

Public health officials anticipate state and local COVID-19 guidance to remain in place to some degree throughout the summer, though San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin expressed optimism that outdoor summer events with precautions in place will be compatible with the state of the pandemic.

“I think from the summer, from what we’ve seen from last year, the seasonality of the virus, the ability of outdoor activities being easier to access, we’ll be doing OK,” she said during Tuesday’s Telluride Town Council meeting. “This fall will be that piece of ‘Do we see a next wave, or are we going to be OK with vaccines?’ During summer I feel pretty darn certain we’ll be doing OK.”