The 23rd Annual Telluride Mushroom Festival was held August 21 - 24, 2003
My neighbor, fellow SNO-er, and fellow psychonaut John B. Free and I set out for the 'Shroom festival, a journey of some 400 miles, intending to stop over in Moab, UT, where I might look up old artist girl friend Vijali, who now lived in Castle Valley.
But she wasn't there, and this supposedly beautiful little town looked like a typical artsy-craftsy Crate 'n Barrel yuppie art gallery burg. Besides, it was ungodly hot and so we pressed on. Fortunately in an hour or so, as we crossed into Colorado, the land began to rise and the temperatures cooled off. The switchback roads climbed through ever-greening mountain sides, and the journey began to take on a magical coloring. Castle Valley may look good in the photo, but the truth is, on the desert floor in Utah, it is dry, dry, and tediously bland.
Telluride is a former mining town that became a quiet backwater after the mines played out, an out of the way retreat for hippies and old-timers, who resented the yuppie invasion, which raised prices and squeezed them off the land. It is now filled with beautiful condos, 4 star restaurants, high priced furniture stores, etc., which I found rather nice actually. Good taste prevails, and million dollar condos might be disguised on the outside to look like rough-hewn wooden storage sheds. I saw some new condos going up that could have been out of Grimm's tales, with narrow cobblestone streets, gilded domes, scrolling ironwork, leaded glass windows, & heavy timbered like houses that the well-to-do Elves in Rivendale inhabit.
Telluride seems to rely on the tourist trade to survive, hosting many festivals each year (Film, Mushroom, Jazz, Bluegrass, Tech), as well as being a top notch ski resort. The town is very progressive, the sheriff being a libertarian and anti-drugwar. County Commissioner Art Goodtimes (pictured in his amanita hat) is also the Mushroom Festival coordinator. Handbills on the wall announced that the city council had passed a resolution to refuse to follow the privacy invading provisions of the Patriot Act.
It was lucky we got there a day early, since the campgrounds were near full; we snagged a hidden spot where the space marker had disappeared, in a small clearing that had attracted other freeloaders. As it turned out, our little circle was comprised of some of the people manning the door at the Festival lectures, so we could count on being waved in without paying. And even though the Festival is billed as costing $300, they are very lenient: you can just pay for individual lectures, and then plead low funds, and get in for $10-$20.
The Festival consisted mainly of two sections: (1) foraging in the mountains for edible shrooms, then bringing them back to the main tent for identification; and (2) lectures in a very elegant High School auditorium (moneyed parents) decorated with alchemical and Rosicrucian wall hangings (!) (which turned out to be from the Film Festival); (3) final day with a gourmet mushroom cookoff; and, the parade down Main Street.
Go on to Day One