I went to my first Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1988 – the 15th annual.
My friends and I loaded up the car with tie-dye, squirt bottles, blankets, and enough peanut-butter pot cookies to incapacitate an entire army.
We drove down from summer in the Wasatch, stopping at a secret swimming hole, which is now a high-school party spot in Moab. We giggled when we hit a skunk because it smelled like weed.
We rented a condo two blocks from Town Park, each of us chipping in $25, and we parked on the street right in front.
Into the festival, we took Wasatch Ale in bottles, a couple of dogs, and a lot of hallucinogenics.
We set up right next to the folks that brought in their own couch.
We danced to a very young Sam Bush’s mandolin, went to The Land of the Navajo with Peter Rowan, and sang gospel on Sunday mornings with John Cowan; all under the canopy of a gazillion stars cradled by the San Juan Mountains.
I did this for years and then the festival became too crowded, too expensive.
It became hip.
I outgrew hallucinogens and my babies outgrew sleeping under a tarp all day in the sun.
In other words, it was not as easy any more and I put it on the shelf as another cool thing I used to do.
Like touring with the Dead.
Then, this year, my friend offered me a ticket to the day of my choice, for the 45th annual Bluegrass Festival.
I said yes.
And thank you.
I got so excited I could barely stand it. I packed up my shit, remembering the relentless sun and frigid nights, nodding to the fact that I need more accouterments to remain comfortable at 53 than I did at 23.
Upon arrival, as I got my arm band, I felt like all of the stress of the last year, really of the last 30 years, rolled right off my back and I was filled with joy; I returned to that young, carefree gal that used to kick her heels up and hug everyone.
I found myself a spot, spread out my quilt, and settled in for the long haul. I was so thankful to be alone to just enjoy it as I wished.
(Last time I went to a music festival, I was dragged out before I was ready because the person I was with had seen the one band he wanted to see and was driving.)
After gyros and a lemonade, I got down to business: people-watching; there’s no place better to observe humanity at its weirdest and best.
There were the usual players, the hippies and the freaks, and there were some new additions. I took notes and will now share a few observations with you.
First of all, why do you think it’s okay to stand up in front of your seated neighbors? Oh, because you want to see the stage. Okay. I’m fine with staring at your ass instead of seeing the stage myself.
(Said no one ever)
You with the tie-dye dress that you just bought in that booth over there, the Prada handbag is a dead giveaway that you’re not really at home in Hippieland.
This is not Coachella.
There’s always the misplaced Dead Head, just dying for another opportunity to eat mushrooms and dance wildly in place.
Go big, Buddy, I miss them too.
To the gal with the perfect hair…are you aware of how stunning you look with those auburn tresses blowing in the wind?
Oh wait, you are.
To the gal on the phone giving the play-by-play to your Aunt Edna in Des Moines, tell her to get a ticket and get off the damn phone.
Very small child with weed spray bottle, thanks for giving my ankles a squirt, I feel much better.
Guy in velvet top hat and no shirt – I’ve seen you before – I think you’ve been at every music gathering this side of the Mississippi since the 80s.
Guy with plastic bird on your shoulder – WAY less creepy than Guy with stuffed iguana puppet.
The announcer letting people know where to smoke grass and to be careful if eating edibles…that’s new (not the smoking and the eating – just the open discussion). Welcome to Colorado.
Children, glow-stick snake, footie pajamas.
And speaking of children…mine suffered for years under the hot sun. We suffered for years carrying all of their shit. Nowadays there is so much [[stuff meant to avoid discomfort: collapsible wagons, giant shade structures big enough to stand or sleep under, camp chairs with hydraulics for rocking a nursing baby.
I would like to take pride in having been tougher than this new generation but really, I’m just jealous.
Girl behind me falling all over guy…he’s a putz. I’ve been listening to him talk about himself for the last 3 hours. He’s not an authority on bluegrass, nor on anything else he’s pretending to know about. Get out of his lap and run.
Gal with your elderly parents…you are a great daughter.
Frat boys in t-shirts from other concerts – yeah, you’re super cool.
Bitchy mom, if you bring your 7-year-old to a 4-day music festival, chances are that at some point he is going to get bored. What do kids do when they get bored (and hot and dehydrated)? They throw fits. So don’t act so f!@#ing surprised and do something other than ignore him.
Girl in crocheted bikini top – if I was 30 years younger…And BTW, your gaybestfriend is giving you a run for your money in the booty-shaking department.
Lady stuck in chair writing in a notebook, your middle age is showing.
(That was me.)
I enjoyed being somewhat of an elder there. Memories cascaded over me while the stunning and stunningly talented Emmylou serenaded me in the most beautiful place on the planet.
The house band played the music that was soundtrack to my son’s entry into the world.
I was so entertained.
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival is back on the to-do list.
Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.