Telluride's Festival Tradition

Generations of festival-goers make the annual pilgrimage to this remote Colorado town for an out-of-this-world experience

Imagine escaping your everyday life to dance with hundreds of new friends in a sun-splashed meadow surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Well, that’s just an average weekend in Telluride. It’s a festival town. And that joyful atmosphere of celebration might be why people don’t just like Telluride, they tend to love it. And return, year after year.

Telluride’s setting is remote and spectacular–it’s no wonder that generations of festival enthusiasts are drawn to this hidden corner of southwest Colorado. [Photo courtesy Thirdeye Visionaries]


Part of Telluride’s fascination is its otherworldly setting. Wedged into a box canyon in southwestern Colorado’s craggy San Juan Mountains, the nearest stoplight 45 miles away—this tiny former mining boomtown (current population: 2,319) is a remote jewel. With its well-tended Late Victorian and Gothic Revival streetscape, Telluride has a beguiling, lost-in-time aura. When you arrive, you feel as though you’ve completed a pilgrimage.

A flock of hot air balloons rises like a rainbow above the San Miguel River in Telluride’s box canyon.Trails and paths in and around town make it easy for visitors to explore the area by foot or by bicycle. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]


That journey has delighted Telluride’s festival-goers for decades. The remarkable longevity of these events speaks to their popularity—the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Telluride Film Festival are both in their 44th year, the Telluride Jazz Festival is 41, the Telluride Wine Festival is 36, the Telluride Balloon Festival is 34 and the Telluride Yoga Festival is a sprightly 10. Steve Gumble, founder and president of the 24-year-old Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, says, “Since the early 1970s, the festival culture has been fully embraced here, and attending a Telluride festival every summer has become a tradition for many.”

The golden glow of a summer’s day in Telluride provides a spectacular backdrop for a busy annual schedule of festivals, celebrating everything from music to movies to mushrooms. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]

Playing outside, including morning fresh-air yoga, is central to enjoying life in Telluride. [Photo by Joanie Schwarz]

Festival fans enjoy colorful venues around town—including open-air concerts in Telluride Town Park and movies in  the Nugget Theater, a repurposed 1892 bank—or take the free gondola up to the modern amenities of Mountain Village. Yoga enthusiasts even hike to some sessions in the woods. “As you leave the car behind, the outside world seems to fade away into a mountain-festival utopia,” Gumble says.

The free public gondola makes the 13-minute connection between Telluride and Mountain Village just plain fun. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]

Tarps and tents and happy festival-goers fill the green of Telluride Town Park, scene of concerts by Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]


And on any given day you might cross paths with movie stars or music legends as you lounge at an outdoor table sipping a craft beer, explore a mountain biking trail or cast a line into the San Miguel River. “The whole experience is very intimate,” Gumble explains. “You’re able to get up-close-and-personal with the artists and locals throughout the festival.”

World-class performers such as the late B.B. King have graced the Telluride stage. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]

Generations of festival-goers look forward to their annual journey to Telluride, and it’s easy to understand their enchantment. Steve Gumble recounts the late great B.B. King’s reaction to Telluride: “He sat on stage, looked out at the mountains before him and said, ‘Out of the 90 different countries I’ve been to, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than what you have here.’”

Fireworks illuminate a night performance. [Photo courtesy Visit Telluride]
A Sampling of Upcoming 2017 Festivals:

Telluride Jazz Festival
August 4-6

Telluride Chamber Music Festival
August 10 – 20

Telluride Film Festival
September 1-4

Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
September 15-17

Telluride Festival of Cars and Colors
September 21 – 24, 2017

Telluride Horror Show
October 13 – 15, 2017


Set in the picturesque box canyon of Telluride, the Art + Architecture Weekend combines the worlds of architecture, design, art and cuisine for a two-day home tour that allows attendees to explore the former mining town’s past and present at their own pace. During a self-guided tour, get an exclusive look at eight historic and contemporary homes and two alternative venues, including the century-old Telluride Historical Museum and a glamping scene at the end of the box canyon. At each stop, a creative team composed of the venue’s architect/designer and local chefs, artists, musicians and mixologists provides entertainment, libations, hors d’oeuvres and artist talks and demonstrations. After the tour, head to Basecamp in downtown for an artist reception and trunk show with furniture designer Dan Sjogren of Sjotime Industries, and a lecture by the winner of the Telluride Transfer Warehouse Architecture Competition. See Mountain Living's Editor's Choice award-winning home here.

For additional information about Telluride festivals, visit

Categories: Events, High-Country Communities