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Breathtaking Telluride: Little City, Big Festivals

This Colorado ski-resort town became known for its festivals.

Telluride, Colo., is only 12 blocks long and six blocks wide, and is surrounded by mountains. Make no mistake, skiing is still big business in Telluride, but for more than 30 years, the town has been synonymous with its signature events.

As Telluride Tourism Board Public Relations Manager Tom Watkinson tells it, in the early 1970s, a lot of "hippie-type" Aspenites moved to Telluride and never left.

"A lot of young people were coming in from Aspen," Watkinson says, "and they started businesses and stayed. To bolster tourism and make businesses flourish in the non-ski season, festivals were started." People brought in music, film and other things to attract tourism—anything that would bring more people into town to sustain residents’ livelihoods, he says.

"Our film festival is one of top 10 film festivals in the world. You want to know who's going to get nominated for the big awards—the Golden Globes, the Oscars—see what's playing at Telluride," Watkinson says. 

There's one way in and one way out of town, and almost always something going on. "From the middle of May until October, we have bluegrass, blues, film, the wine festival, a biking festival, a mushroom festival, chamber music and more."

Telluride, Colorado hosts Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival is a favorite among locals and visitors. (©Visittelluride.com)

Some locals claim that Blues & Brews, scheduled the third weekend of September, is the favorite because it signifies the start of fall colors and the coming of ski season. The Mushroom Festival and the Imogene Pass Run further exemplify the eclectic offerings of Telluride. 

"The colors of the leaves are going off," Watkinson says. "The trees have changed. You're at amazing heights, and it's just beautiful weather for a festival."

So, when is the best time to plan a trip to Telluride?

"Look at our calendar; find an event that interests you; and plan your vacation around that," Watkinson says. 

"It's part of our economy. We call ourselves the festival capital of Colorado," he explaines. "Other ski resorts are looking at us and trying to model themselves after us. That's not something we planned to happen, but we fully embrace it."

Telluride, Colorado hosts an annual balloon festival
Balloons take to the sky during Telluride's annual Balloon Festival. (©Visittelluride.com)

The Festivals of Telluride

In addition to single-day events—including the annual Fourth of July celebration—and weekly events—free runs and bicycle rides in the surrounding mountains—Telluride plays host to many festivals throughout the year. Below are some of them.

  • Oct. 16-18, 2015: Telluride Horror Show
  • Dec. 4-6: Telluride Arts Bazaar
  • Jan. 14-18, 2016: Telluride Fire Festival
  • Feb. 11-14: Sheridan Arts Festival/17th Annual Comedy Festival
  • March 11-12: 3rd Annual Telluride Tribute Fest
  • May 27-30: 2016 Mountainfilm in Telluride
  • June 3-5: 33rd Annual Telluride Balloon Festival
  • June 9-12: 2016 Telluride WOW Festival
  • June 16-19: 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival
  • June 23-26: Telluride Wine Festival
  • July 9-10: The Ride Festival
  • July 13-17: Telluride Art + Architecture Weekend
  • July 21-24:Telluride Yoga Festival
  • Aug. 5-7: Telluride Jazz Festival
  • Aug. 11-21: Telluride Chamber Music Festival
  • Aug. 18t-21: Telluride Mushroom Festival
  • Sept. 2-5: Telluride Film Festival
  • Sept. 16-18: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival

Telluride, Colorado
The annual Telluride Film Festival has become one of the biggest in the country. (©Visittelluride.com)

Slideshow: The Scenes of Telluride

All photos (Courtesy VisitTelluride.com)