Bluegrass

Crews working in Telluride Town Park ready the stage and the festival grounds for the first of two weekends of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

First Mountainfilm, then Balloon, now Bluegrass. Telluride’s familiar summer pattern is taking shape following last year’s COVID cancel culture. While Telluride Bluegrass Festival is certainly back, as evidenced by the proliferation of white tents and fencing in Telluride Town Park this week, it’s a bit different. The first of two weekends of the annual boot-stomping, skirt-twirling celebration of music and camaraderie kicks off Friday, a week before its normal summer solstice spot on the calendar. That’s right. There will be two weekends of music on the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage. And that’s only a bit of what’s new this year.

When public health orders were still in effect, it was decided that the festival would be capped at 2,500 tickets per day. Groups of 10 could purchase socially distanced corrals (sold out), but since public health orders have been lifted, general admission tickets were made available, too. Local ticket outlet Telluride Music Company no longer has tickets, but according to the folks working there, the Bluegrass box office is the place to check. Tickets were also available at bluegrass.com, as of press time Wednesday afternoon.

The box office is no longer in its usual spot at the terminus of East Pacific Avenue, but instead has been relocated to the warming hut in Town Park in anticipation of fewer attendees. This weekend, hours are Thursday (today) 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10-a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Music in the park is from 3-10:30 p.m., with four acts each day. Gates are at 2 p.m. Friday, and at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Heavy hitters Dierks Bentley, the Sam Bush Band, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Sarah Jarosz, the Tim O’Brien Band, and more will send the much-missed sounds of fiddles, banjos, goosebump-tight harmonies and unexpected musical mayhem careening off the canyon walls.

MUSIC AT NIGHT

NightGrass is happening, though at a lessened capacity than 2019, but night owls are rejoicing to be able to keep the music buzz going until the wee hours. Planet Bluegrass is only handling ticketing for the shows being performed at the Telluride Conference Center-Club Red in Mountain Village. Grab yours at bluegrass.com, and check out the schedule there for both this weekend and next. The remaining show tickets for this weekend, as of press time, are for the Punch Brothers Sunday night. The conference center requires proof of vaccination to attend, so don’t forget your CDC card.

The Sheridan Opera House is handling its own ticketing, and this weekend is featuring Chris Thile tonight at 10 p.m., the Watkins Family Hour Friday at 11 p.m., and Saturday, the Shook Twins perform at 10 p.m. The opera house also requires either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the show you wish to attend, no exceptions. This is our new reality, music lovers. Get complete info and tickets at sheridanoperahouse.com.

LISTEN AND WATCH

For those who have to work, or simply can’t make it to the park, you won’t be left out. Planet Bluegrass is hosting its own livestream each weekend. Passes can be purchased at tinyurl.com/ravta2tj. The folks at Planet Bluegrass are generously donating a portion of the proceeds to KOTO radio and other local nonprofits.

KOTO will once again be broadcasting the festival live, but only on terrestrial radio. KOTO.org will stream archived Bluegrass sets from past festivals. Tune in to KOTO at 91.7, 89.3, 89.5 and 105.3 to listen on the good old-fashioned radio.

“The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but especially for those in the music industry,” KOTO Executive Director Cara Pallone said. “As we celebrate the return of live music, we hope you will support Planet Bluegrass in its endeavor to provide a video stream of the two festival weekends this year, June 11-13 and 17-20.”

The radio broadcast will run from 3 p.m. “until the music’s over,” according to KOTO News Director Julia Caulfield.

LATE NIGHT RIDES

Fear not, Lawson Hill residents, you will not be stranded in Mountain Village after a NightGrass show. The Town of Mountain Village is providing post-show shuttles from the Centrum bus stop directly behind the conference center to the upper bus stop in Lawson Hill both festival weekends.

The gondola, too, has expanded hours each of the Bluegrass weekends with service extending past midnight until 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) buses are providing extended hours to help park attendees make it back to Lawson Hill after the shows. The last bus will leave from the courthouse at 11 p.m.

“We’re already out there, so there’s nothing to keep us from going for an extra hour,” SMART Executive Director David Averill said.

And because of the festival’s smaller size, there is no agreement between Planet Bluegrass and the Town of Mountain Village for free overnight parking or parking on roadways as there has been previously. Visitors coming in from out of town are welcome to park for free during the daytime in gondola parking garage. However, overnight parking is $25 per night in gondola parking garage. There are pay stations in the garage or guests are encouraged to use the Park Mobile app.