Telluride Bluegrass Festival, 1998 Photo: J. Janover
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Considered one of the country's most progressive
annual bluegrass festivals, the Telluride festival has grown to be
a premier world event since the first one in 1974. In recent years,
the festival has expanded to include musicians who play jazz, rock,
country, folk, pop, world, celtic, newgrass, as well as bluegrass,
sometimes blending different styles. The festival embraces the
celebration of music in one of the country's most spectacular
settings-San Juan Valley.
The Telluride festival audience, called festivarians,
are not only enthusiastic, but loyal, some making this event an
annual vacation. The festival is limited to 10,000 people a day,
and sells out a little earlier each year. Among musicians who have
played the festival throughout the years are Bela Fleck, Sam Bush,
Tim O'Brien, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, John Cowan, and
David Grisman. Newer regulars are Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin
Carpenter, and Shawn Colvin.
The mountain town of Telluride began in the late
1800s, when prospectors followed the gold rush. Originally called
Columbia, the name was changed nine years later to Telluride to
avoid confusion with another town named Columbia. Telluride is an
ore containing precious minerals combined with the element
tellurium, then thought to be the richest of all ores. The city
gained a kind of notoriety when Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch
pulled off their first bank robbery in Telluride, taking the
$24,000 deposit meant for the miners' payroll.
During the Gay Nineties Telluride began attracting
tourists who sought to experience the last of America's Frontier.
Festivals were popular, and Telluride put on one of the state's
best Fourth of July celebrations. In 1953 Telluride Mines shut
down, and 90 percent of the male work force became unemployed.
Luckily another company bought the mines, but townsfolk realized
they needed to develop other industries, such as tourism, to be
less dependent on mining. Because of Telluride's historic
significance, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in
1964. In 1969, a ski resort was built outside the town and many
young adult skiers discovered the beauty of Telluride, and moved
there. The population reached 1,000. The ski resort supported the
town in winter. And in summer, the town started hosting more
festive events, such as a hang gliding competition and a film
festival. When the Idarado Mining Company closed in 1978, Telluride
completely became a resort town.
The first Telluride Bluegrass Festival was started by
a bluegrass band, Fall Creek, and was held during the four-day
Independence Day celebration. It attracted 1,000 "festivarians."
Each following year, the festival became more professional, adding
bigger acts. By 1978, many people had heard of the festival, which
attracted 7,500 people, through word of mouth and its two albums.
However, the festival promoters did not make money and some
residents believed the festival should move to another location to
handle the growing crowds. Other residents wanted to keep it as
part of the city's legacy and as a contributor to its economy. The
6th annual festival resulted in two CDs, and was filmed by the
Boulder public television station. By 1983, the festival had become
a nationally recognized festival and has continued the
Project documentation comprises a large report,
including a history of Telluride and of the festival, newspaper
clippings, the silver anniversary double CD from the festival in
1999, a 1992 festival CD, a video of the 17th Annual Telluride
Bluegrass Festival, festival brochures, and slides.
Originally submitted by: Wayne Allard, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.