The three-pillar July 4 agenda is a tried and true Telluride tradition spanning the last several decades. Here’s your guide to getting the most out of one of the most brilliant days in Telluride’s summer calendar.
It may be an annual tradition, but that doesn’t mean Telluride’s famed Fourth of July Parade is ever the same.
Parade head honcho (a.k.a. top volunteer) Susan McKinney says that while the parade is shaping up to be “as much fun as it ever is,” she allows that this year’s event could have some surprises. She won’t let in what those surprises will be, but says, “You’ll just have to be there to see it. It will be a hoot!”
Of course, the annual parade will include some old standbys, including the Montrose Community Band, the Veteran’s March, and the electrifying Colorado National Guard flyover.
McKinney says that parade registration will remain open until 5 p.m. on July 3, and, as always, the parade is free to enter. She urges any interested participants to get their registration forms in early; forms are available at the Telluride Visitor’s Center, Telluride Historical Museum, as well as online at the Town of Telluride website (www.telluride-co.gov).
“What makes the parade unique is the same thing that makes Telluride unique,” says McKinney, who has been involved in the event for at least seven years. “It’s such a community endeavor, where everyone’s out there wanting to have a voice – and we welcome that with open arms.”
The parade requires some volunteer assistance to put on; if interested in volunteering, contact McKinney at firstname.lastname@example.org. “It’s the best seat in the house!” she says of volunteering as a course marshal.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m.; although to get a good viewing spot McKinney recommends arriving much earlier.
Immediately following the parade, spectators move en masse to the day’s next event: The beloved fireman’s barbecue picnic in Telluride Town Park.
“Traditionally, this is really just about getting the community together,” says Telluride Fire Chief Jamey Schuler of the annual event. “It’s a great opportunity to get everybody out in the park.”
Volunteer firefighters begin slow cooking beef in the Town Park’s pit barbecue the evening before, and also whip up a sublime selection of other summer picnic favorites like barbecue chicken, potato and green salad, beans, watermelon, and hot dogs for the kids. Cost for the picnic has remained the same as recent years, at $12 for an adult and $7 for a child.
Following the picnic, volunteer firefighters from the Placerville station will have a stellar afternoon planned for Town Park’s youngest visitors, with a wide selection of kids games ranging from pie-eating contests to three-legged races and water balloon tosses to the beloved fish catch. All of the kids’ games are free.
Schuler notes “This is the only time of the year the volunteer fire department asks for donations,” which in addition to paying for the fireworks display, also go toward an annual scholarship fund, which grants $6,000 per year to local students. The fire department is also currently working on a special project, hoping to refurbish the historic Galloping Goose, which is now parked at the Ridgway Railroad Museum.
Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bennett has been involved in the spectacular Telluride Fourth of July fireworks show for 16 years, and says that it only keeps getting better.
“It will be more refined this year; we’ve added more shells than last year and have included more big shells,” Bennett says, noting, “There may be a couple of surprises this year!”
The annual fireworks show is a labor of love for members of the area’s fire departments, with roughly 30 volunteer firefighters shooting the show Monday night and at least 100 hours of preparation needed before the actual event. Firefighters professionally trained in the ignition of fireworks, including long-time fireworks volunteers John Bergtold, Paul Ruud, David Wadley, and Billy Salee, must bury all the mortars on firecracker hill and have to check and re-check all of the shells prior to ignition, Bennet explains. The fire department also has a wildland fire crew stationed on Bear Creek Road throughout the show, outfitted with thermal imaging cameras to scan the hillside for hot spots. They also douse Firecracker Hill prior to the show.
Telluride is able to put on such an extensive show (this year, to the tune of $37,000) because it’s an in-house production. “We don’t have to hire a company to put it on, so all the money we collect can go directly toward the fireworks themselves,” he explains.
The annual fireworks show is funded completely through donations from the community.
So don’t pass your hard-working volunteer firefighters by when you see them soliciting donations. “Put your money in the boot!” Bennett says, referring to the firefighters who carry boots into which donations can be dropped.
The fireworks display will begin at dark, which is usually between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. Bennett adds that the best place to watch the show is from a blanket at the Town Park.