There are people that come to Telluride Bluegrass Festival every year without fail. Some of them are the performers, who swear they will never, ever miss Bluegrass. But for the most part, they're just fans who make the annual trek here because it's a great tradition and the perfect place to spend the longest days of summer.
And while the never-miss-Bluegrass crowd has the whole festival scene completely dialed in, there are always people who are experiencing it for the first time. So in case you're a newbie, Telluride.com wants you to benefit from this list of pro tips so that you can enjoy the festival to the fullest. From the tarp run to hitting the late-night shows, here is some advice for making the most out of your Telluride Bluegrass Festival:
TARP STRATEGY: Yes, it's true...you have to sleep out in line the night before to get the premium spots for your tarp. The sleeping in line is an experience unto itself, with lots of partying and guitar and mandolin picking. The best strategy is to pick a sacrificial lamb, a member of your group, to sleep out. We recommend picking someone fairly athletic and who isn't going to party too hard — you do actually have to run with your tarp/chair to claim your spot, and if you're not in great physical shape, it helps to not have a hangover. Also, reward your sacrificial lamb with a good space on your tarp so they can take a nap. Often it's not the best night of sleep and they'll want to doze off during some of the peaceful afternoon sets.
FUN FLAGS: OK, Imagine the sea of blue tarps laying on the ground and thousands of people milling around. It can be pretty hard to find your designated spot. The trick is to use a pole with a flag to mark your zone, nothing so big that it obscures anyone's view of the stage, but something iconic and colorful enough that your peeps can find you and you can find them.
BE PREPARED: The old boy scout motto applies. You want to have enough sunscreen for the day (the sun at this altitude can be intense), rain gear (you never know), and warm clothes and shoes for the evening sets. It cools off at night and you'll be super happy to slip on some socks and shoes after your feet have been in flip-flops all day. It's also not a bad idea to pack a water bottle to stay hydrated (there are refilling stations), some ibuprofen, and if you have young kids, some ear protection. But if you get stuck or have an emergency, there is a medical tent that also has supplies.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: If I had a dime for every time I'd waited too long to use the porta-potty, only to rush over and find there was a line of people waiting ahead of me, I'd have a LOT of dimes. The best advice is to not wait too long, and you should also be prudent with your timing. A few minutes before a set is scheduled to end is a great time to duck out and hit the loo or to find one of the great food or vendor booths so that you can avoid long lines.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD: Speaking of food breaks, there are so many options that you may get dizzy trying to pick while standing in the sun, looking at the lines and trying to determine how long it's going to take to get food in your belly. And I get it — when you're hungry and you want food now, you're probably going to pick the shortest line, and trust me, all the food is good. But when you're willing to wait for the quintessential meal or snack, hands-down it is the wontons. Sisters' Pantry is the food you're going to love and remember and wait in line for next time. I know lots of locals who take a break from work and pop in the festival to eat wontons; they are that insanely good. And if you're looking for a hearty meal, check out the flank steak booth — it's a benefit for the local ski and snowboard club for kids, and it will keep you satisfied for the long haul.
LATE-NIGHT SHOWS: Did you take a break at the wrong time and miss one of you favorite acts on the main stage? You might still be able to catch them playing late night at one of the venues around town, or even at the free performances at Elk's Park. Check the schedule and make sure you get your tickets to the late shows early, as they do sell out.
These are just the basics to get you started. Don't worry, by the time you come back next year you will have your own set of protocols and strategies for maximizing the weekend. Enjoy!