Shroomfest, The Ride Compete For Mid-August Date
by Samantha Wright
Dec 13, 2012 | 2188 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – Tension and passion infused a packed Telluride Town Council meeting chamber this Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 11, as perhaps 50 community members poured in to voice their disparate opinions on whether a new rock and roll music festival called The Ride and the 32-year-old Telluride Mushroom Festival can coexist on the same weekend next summer.

After well over two hours of often antagonistic comments, and with no end in sight, council agreed to continue reviewing the matter at a special joint meeting with the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events (CCAASE) at 10 a.m. this Friday, Dec. 14, where a decision will be made.

Last summer, in its inaugural year, The Ride festival was the fourth weekend in August. Attendance was quite good, with total ticket sales pegged at 4,555, but the fest still ended up losing money. Sponsoring organization San Miguel Education Fund, also known as the KOTO radio station, as well as financial backer Todd Creel of Telluride Productions, proposed moving the event up by one weekend in 2013 with the hopes of attracting a bigger crowd of music fans before “back to school” season hits in full force.

Their target weekend, Aug. 16-18, happens to overlap with the 2013 Telluride Mushroom Festival. For most of its existence, “Shroomfest” has taken place on the last weekend of August, but two years ago organizers shifted it up by a week, hoping to attract more mushroom scholars from across the country to the nation’s largest annual gathering devoted to fungi.

Shroomfest organizers had originally given a thumbs-up to the concept of sharing their weekend with The Ride, with the thought that sharing the limelight would potentially attract more attention to their relatively small annual gathering of grassroots mycologists and academics.

However, after CCAASE’s 3-2 vote last week to approve The Ride’s new date on the Town of Telluride Special Events Calendar for 2013, Shroomfesters changed their minds, and rallied their troops in the eleventh hour in protest.  

Shroomfest director Scott Koch sent out a mass e-mail alerting supporters that the event was in jeopardy because “The Town of Telluride is considering booking a large music festival over the same dates as the Shroomfest, which would result in crowding, noise, and a significant loss of quality and amenities which the Shroomfest participants have come to value.”

Supporters responded by flooding town officials with over 200 emails, arguing that their small festival would get squashed like a puffball if it had to share dates with The Ride, which is approved for up to 9,000 attendees.

“It’s more letters than I’ve ever received,” noted Councilor Thom Carnevale.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Shroomfest supporters squared off against representatives of KOTO and The Ride, arguing that the CCAASE board had rushed its motion to approve dates for The Ride and that it had not followed its own criteria.

When CCAASE considers calendar date requests, the commission uses a list of criteria ranging from the longevity of the event and its sponsoring organization to the event’s value to, and impact on, the community. Changes to existing events or new events’ impact on other events with regard to economics, infrastructure, available venues and crowd size are also taken into consideration.

Telluride’s special event ordinance requires that “major” events (3,000 or more persons per day) provide notice via the standard CCAASE calendar date process. According to council packet material provided by town manager Greg Clifton, for 2013 events, that notification deadline was May 11, 2012. The Ride’s date-change request came in after the deadline, and it was up to council to decide whether to grant an exemption. The matter was a scheduled agenda item at this week’s regular council meeting.

Addressing council, Koch pointed out that the “people in our community are really tight, and if I have one of those people say they had a negative experience, there will be damage control with ripple effects. I’d be pretty concerned about the future of Shroomfest.”

He said that it is crucial for Shroomfest to happen in mid-to-late August because that’s when monsoon season happens and the mushrooms grow.

“In the spirit of community and collaboration, we would like the CCAASE board to re-address this issue,” Koch said. “It would be really sad to see this happen; the process was created to keep small fests from being overrun.”

“It’s hard to listen to Scott talk about the spirit of collaboration,” KOTO’s Janice Zink retorted. “We really thought we had an agreement (with Mushroom Fest). I really resent KOTO being made out to be a bully here. How did this happen? He (Koch) sent out 2,500 emails making KOTO out to be this monster. This is despicable, as far as I am concerned. KOTO is not trying to bully anybody; we are the ones who have been maligned in this process.”

Mayor Stu Fraser voiced his frustration at the lack of willingness on both sides to find a compromise. “I have believed in all my years sitting up here that collaboration is one of the biggest challenges this town has faced,” he said. “We have limited venues, limited resources, limited days during the week in which we can celebrate the uniqueness of this community.”

Fraser decried the “I want it and nobody else can have it” attitude on exhibit in the room, describing it as a “sense of entitlement.”

“If the Town of Telluride and Idarado can come to collaboration, you would think that Mushroom and the Ride could do the same,” added Councilor Kristin Permakoff.

Carnevale stated that he favors The Ride and sees it as an asset to the community. “But I also feel very strongly about the protection of other festivals,” he said. “I see the possibility of one of the festivals becoming endangered, and that’s troubling to me.”

One compromise solution that appeared to gain ground through the heated discussion was a date swap in which KOTO would flip-flop its two summer events, so that The Ride would take place in July, and the much-smaller Doo-Dah Festival would take place in August.

As articulated by Ted Wilson, “It seems to me that if The Ride happens in July and Doo-Dah happens in August, a one-day concert would mesh very well with Mushroom Fest. If I was KOTO, I would just do a switcheroo.”

Creel indicated he would consider a July date for The Ride, but only if a decision is made in the very near future, as he needs to start nailing down performers for next summer’s festival.

At Friday’s upcoming meeting, Fraser stressed there will be ground rules to keep attendees respectful and on task. “We would like to have as much public input as possible, but will keep it up here as much as possible to hear what the possibilities are. It could be a relatively short meeting,” he said optimistically.

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