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June 12th, 2013

2013 Telluride Bluegrass Survival Guide

The historic 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival is almost here. 40 years, folks. For 40 years, Festivarians have trekked to the tiny town of Telluride, perched at 8,750 feet, to celebrate Americana roots music. Over the years, sets and unique collaborations from the talented “usual suspects” – Béla Fleck, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush – helped transform the festival from a sub-genre of country music into its own unique category: “Telluride Bluegrass.” Today, the festival welcomes new talent and veteran favorites with open arms creating an unforgettable experience that people often just call… magical.      

Four days dedicated to 100+ hours of unforgettable performances, delicious Killer Flank Steaks, mid-day dips in the San Miguel River, early morning tarp runs, hot Summer Solstice parties, gushing waterfalls, not-to-miss Workshops, cold New Belgium brews, intimate late-night NightGrass, those really good corndogs you can’t seem to stop eating, friendly strangers, Free Box finds, gorgeous hikes between sets, amazing up-and-coming Troubadour contest songwriters, and many, MANY more memories you’ll only experience in this tiny box canyon surrounded by 13,000 foot mountains. Welcome to the ultimate bucketlist event. 

Here’s your Bluegrass Survival Guide with everything you need to know, do, taste, see and hear while you’re visiting for the 40th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Whether you’re a first-timer, seasoned festivarian or longtime veteran, I’ve got the “local scoop” to help you have the most memorable weekend of your life. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.  

Where to Park

Parking is very limited in the town of Telluride… even before 10,000 people show up. You'll only be allowed through the Telluride barricade if you have lodging reservations (1 car per reservation). Use Mountain Village or out-of-town parking lots as overflow; first-come, first-served. Once your car is parked, don’t move it. You can walk or bike the entire town of Telluride.     

What to Do

Most of your time will be consumed in the pearly gates of Town Park (not a bad thing) but, remember to get outside and explore all Telluride has to offer while you’re in town. Here are a few recommendations on ‘What To Do’ around town: 

  • FirstGrass – For those lucky fans that’ll be in town on Wednesday, June 19th, ride the Gondola up to Mountain Village and check out the FREE Sunset Plaza show from 4-8pm featuring the Steep Canyon Rangers, Lake Street Dive and Rosco Bandana. Bring a blanket, picnic and your camera and start this party off right! 
  • Kickoff Party with YMSB – After the free show in Sunset Plaza, hop over to the Telluride Conference Center for the official 12th Annual Bluegrass Kickoff Party with Yonder Mountain String Band. Doors open at 8pm, show starts at 9pm and will (as always) be an amazing night of energy and bluegrass reuniting. Last year, Sam sat in. Hope you got your tickets! 
  • Telluride Farmers’ Market – Friday, June 21st from 11am - 4pm the weekly Telluride Farmers’ Market will take place on South Oak Street. Stroll through vendors with fresh, local produce, beautiful flowers and delicious food. Try the Kettle Corn Popcorn… amazing. 
  • Ride the Gondola – You can’t visit Telluride without riding the most stunning public transportation in the country. The free Gondola is a must-do and don’t forget your camera! Get out on top (San Sophia) and hike around or ride it down into Mountain Village and check out the shops, restaurants, bars and more. 
  • Hike – Telluride has some of the most stunning hikes in Colorado right outside your backdoor. In between sets, hike Bear Creek Trail right behind Town Park or work off those corndogs on a longer hike to the Jud Wiebe Trail or Bridal Veil Falls. Did you know Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado’s largest free-falling waterfall? Boom. There you go… another must-do.
  • Attend a Workshop – The free Elks Park Workshops are one of the coolest experiences of Bluegrass Fest. Enjoy these unique collaborations and intimate performances from some of your favorite artists. Great place to chill and get out of the Town Park craziness. 
  • Tarp Run – The infamous Tarp Run. Something seasoned festivarians train for all year long. Your opportunity to have the most ideal spot for your friends and family each day of Bluegrass Fest. The diehards setup camp around midnight... the lightweights setup camp around 4:00am. Yea, it's that competitive.
  • Telluride Contests – Make sure you listen to the Telluride Troubadour (schedule listed above) and the Telluride Band Contest (listed below) in Elks Park and Town Park. These folks are the next big thing and winners will grace Main Stage for their chance to wow the Town Park crowd.

What to Bring

Telluride’s weather is extremely unpredictable. Remember the Mumford and Sons show a couple years ago when it rained, snowed and then the sun came out? Pack for all 4-seasons.  

  • Pack a rain jacket, a pair of sandals/Chacos, hiking boots, sunscreen and a festival hat along with your other normal festival, summer-in-Colorado wardrobe. It’s been getting down in the 40’s at night and into the upper 70’s-80’s during the day. We usually take a change of clothes into the festival so when it begins to cool off, you can change without missing a show.
  • You may bring into the festival grounds: Low-back chairs, tarps, coolers (with no glass inside) and a water bottle/Camelback to fill up at the onsite Water station.
  • Don’t forget your camera. You’ll definitely want to capture some of the Bluegrass characters, beautiful views and relive your experiences throughout the year. 

Who to See

Obviously you don’t want to miss the Telluride “usual suspects” - Sam Bush, YMSB, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas - but, if you need a couple recommendations of some must-see shows, here are a couple acts you don’t want to miss: 

  • Greensky Bluegrass – all the way from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Band Contest at Bluegrass Fest in 2006, earning them a spot on Main Stage in 2007. They always bring the heat. One of the best NightGrass shows of the entire festival last year at the Opera House. They’ll play Main Stage from 3-4:15pm on Thursday.
  • Lake Street Dive – My wildcard for the entire festival. A lot of buzz going around about these guys and girls. Catchy songs + a huge jazz influence + horns = a couple awesome groove-driven shows. They sound really really good. Check them out at FirstGrass on Wednesday night, Thursday in Elks Park at 2:30pm and in Town Park at 11:15am-12:15pm Friday on Main Stage.
  • Mumford & Sons – this is a given. When Mumford made their North American festival debut at Bluegrass Festival a couple years ago… they fell in love with the box canyon. Send good thoughts and prayers to the bassist, Ted Dwane, as he recovers from emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot. This show is going to be insane.  
  • Leftover Salmon – FESTIVALLLL! You’ll hear it belted out from lead man Vince Herman a handful of times. These guys have been playing Bluegrass Fest for 20 years and are one of the most quintessential Telluride bands. Leftover Salmon always brings a party to Telluride. They close out Saturday, June 22nd from 10:30-Midnight on Main Stage.
  • Hot Rize – another quintessential Telluride Bluegrass band. Western swing meets bluegrass boogie. They play Sunday from 4:15-5:45pm on Main Stage.
  • BlueBilly Grit – they won the Telluride Band Contest at last year’s festival, earning them a spot on Main Stage for the 40th annual. That’s big time. Check them out from 11:15am-12:15pm on Saturday on Main Stage.
  • Punch, Cheese, Masters, Dispatch – Friday evening, June 21st is gearing up to be one of the best runs of the entire festival in Town Park. Punch Brothers play from 5:30-6:45pm, with The String Cheese Incident playing from 7:15-8:45pm, Masters of Bluegrass from 9:15-10:30pm and then finish it off with Dispatch from 11:00-Midnight. Hydrate for that one... It’s going to be off the charts.  

Where to Eat

The festival food circuit in Town Park is to die for. Don't forget to try the Flank Steaks, corndogs, wontons and more. If you’d like to try out a good eat outside of Town Park, here are a few restaurants recommendations: 

  • Brown Dog Pizza – best Sports Bar and pizza in town. Watch a game, drink an ice-cold PBR and grab an award-winning deep dish slice. Located directly on Main Street.
  • Baked in Telluride – great spot to get breakfast or a quick eat if you’re in a hurry to catch a show. B.I.T. offers fresh bagels, cookies, croissants, muffins, pizza, doughnuts and much, much more. Located on South Fir Street.
  • La Cocina – delicious organic Mexican food with Gluten Free options. Located on Main Street with outdoor seating and a hellova margarita!
  • Diggity Dogs – need some late night grub? Diggity Dogs usually posts up right outside the Court House and offers hotdogs with delicious toppings of your choice.
  • Siam – one of our favorite restaurants in Telluride. Siam offers mouth-watering Thai food with large portions. Yes, Siam!
  • Best Brunch? – 221, New Sheridan and FloraDora (best value) have the best brunch spots in town.
  • Elks Lodge Pancake Breakfast – you gotta check out the annual pancake breakfast held Friday-Sunday from 9am-Noon at the Elks Lodge. Chris Jamison will be playing will be playing music each morning too. 

Where to Drink

Here are the top bars to checkout before, during or after you hangout in Town Park: 

  • The Last Dollar Saloon – called “The Buck,” a great local hangout where the PBR flows like wine. The Buck is CASH ONLY… so, don’t be that guy who pulls out a credit card. Mingle with the locals, play some foosball or Buck Hunter and enjoy the scene. (Located on Main Street)
  • New Sheridan – more of an old-timey bar, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the 1800’s. Play some pool and grab a drink. (Located on Main Street)
  • Sheridan Opera House – if you’re lucky enough to grace the presence of this venue… pat yourself on the back. Tickets went fast! The Opera House is one of our favorite venues in the country. Small, unique, intimate and one of the best shows you’ll ever see… doesn’t matter who it is! (Located on North Oak Street, beside the Sheridan Chop House)
  • There – Where? There. There Bar located near South Davis Street (kitty-corner from Siam) is a cool, hipster bar with fantastic cocktails. Try out the blueberry jam with vodka… mmmmm!
  • Fly Me to the Moon – another great spot to catch a NightGrass show. Cheese, Panic, Phish, Sublime and more have played this venue. 


Give us some love on social media while you're in town! Make sure you post and tag your photos and memories so the rest of the world can view the glory of Bluegrass. 

  • Facebook – Post photos, ask questions and let us know how much fun you're having on our Fan Page
  • Twitter – Make sure you hashtag your favorite shows, photos and experiences from #Telluride! The official Telluride Bluegrass Festival hashtag is #TBF40. Tag us @Telluridedotcom and we'll RT! A couple people to follow for great updates: @TellurideFests@hartlroberts@PlanetBluegrass and @ChacoUSA. Also, check out this TwitterList of artists, bands and other tweeps who will be live tweeting from Telluride and Town Park. 
  • Instagram – Post your favorite photos from Town Park and use #Telluride and tag us at @Telluridedotcom and we'll share our favorite posts on Facebook all weekend long. 
  • Spotify – While you pack your bags, listen to our 2013 Bluegrass Festival Spotify Playlist to get you pumped!

That's a wrap. Enjoy one of the best weekends of the summer. Heck, one of the best weekends of the year in my book. If you have any last minute questions/tips or want to grab a beer around town or in Town Park, hit me up on Twitter. A wise man once told me: “Never stand when you can be sitting, never sit when you can be lying down and always eat and sh-t at the first available opportunity.”



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