Telluride Bluegrass Festival

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Telluride BLuegrass 2009 - main stage.jpg
Main stage of the festival, 2009
Dates Third Weekend of June
Location(s) Telluride, Colorado, United States
Years active 1973–present

Telluride Bluegrass Festival is an annual music festival in Telluride, Colorado hosted by Planet Bluegrass. Although traditionally the festival focuses on bluegrass music,[1] it often features music from a variety of related genres.


The first Telluride Bluegrass Festival was held in Telluride in 1974. It was founded by John Herndon, J.B. Matiotti, Kooster McAllister, and Fred Shellman, who played in a local band called the Fall Creek Boys.

The idea for the festival came from the Telluride Fourth of July Celebration in 1973. Scott Brown organized the traditional Fourth of July Celebration which had its roots in the early mining days of Telluride when miners would come from many miles for a rendezvous. Scott Brown, George Greenbank, Davy Greever, Burk Thompson, and Ralph Parker built the original stage at Town Park and designated an area for dancing and listening, and a concession area.[2]

The success of the 1973 celebration is credited as the beginning of a revival of the American Bluegrass tradition and music over the years.[citation needed]

The ownership of the Bluegrass Festival has been passed down five times since its inception and is now owned and run by Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass.

In 1974, its first year, the festival attracted approximately 1000 participants. The festival's attendance was capped at 10,000. Since at least 2013, capacity has been set at 12,000 per day (48,000 total over the four days of the festival).[3] According to the Library of Congress, the 1980 performance was filmed by Boulder public television and two CDs were made available.


Notable performers have included Sam Bush, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, John Fogerty, Chris Daniels & The Kings, Bill Monroe, Nanci Griffith, Mark O'Conner, Dixie Chicks, String Cheese Incident, New Monsoon, Sharon Gilchrist, Railroad Earth, New Grass Revival, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, John Prine, Nickel Creek, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mumford & Sons, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Peter Rowan, Leftover Salmon, Béla Fleck, Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Tim O'Brien, Counting Crows, and Lyle Lovett, to name a few. The Telluride house band consists of Sam Bush on mandolin, Béla Fleck on banjo, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Edgar Meyer on upright Bass, and Bryan Sutton on guitar.

Band contest[edit]

One of the features of the festival is a band contest. Twelve bands are given slots in the competition. Judges rate the bands and the top four go to the main stage to compete before the crowd.

Past winners include:

  • 1985 - Blitz Creek
  • 1986 - Loose Ties (Runners-up Blue Plate Special)
  • 1988 - Titan Valley Warheads
  • 1989 - Powder Ridge
  • Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband
  • Pagosa Hot Strings
  • The Badly Bent
  • Greensky Bluegrass
  • Spring Creek
  • Blue Canyon Boys
  • Wild Sage (Third Place - 2000)
  • Nora Jane Struthers & the Bootleggers
  • Dixie Chicks
  • 2011 - Run Boy Run
  • 2012 - BlueBilly Grit
  • 2013 - Front Country
  • 2014 - Trout Steak Revival
  • 2015 - The Lil' Smokies


Dan Sandowsky, Teluride's emcee for twenty nine years, has written a book about the festival. It is entitled Telluride Bluegrass Festival — 40 Years of Festivation.[4]


  1. ^ Herbert, Kiran. "Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2014". Relix, 3 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Telluride Bluegrass Festival ". US News: Travel".
  3. ^ Slosson, Mary. Telluride Daily Planet, Oct. 29, 2104
  4. ^ Miller, Matt. "Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2014: Adding to four decades of stories". The Denver Post.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]