The 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Festival comes to town, and suddenly the tiny town of 2,000 people is bursting at its seams with another 10,000 festivarians bent on having fun.
It is the busiest weekend of summer: there are lines at every coffee shop and restaurant, cell service becomes spotty, and tarp space at our beloved Town Park becomes prime real estate. If you want a front row seat for the festivities, you need to earn it. It’s a very egalitarian system, but if you’re new to the Bluegrass scene, here are some tarp tips:
1. Be First
Line up the night before and sleep in line. Hundreds of people sleep out the night before, jockeying for position when they open the gates in the morning. It’s cold in the mountains at night, so bring a sleeping bag, snacks, a headlamp, and copious amounts of liquor. You’ll be surrounded by plenty of amateur musicians and fun people entertaining you, but at some point you’re going to need some shut-eye, and that’s where the liquor will come in handy.
2. Be Fastest
The running of the tarps is an annual tradition. Once the gates open in the early morning, your position in line is no guarantee of your position in the park. You will need to run your fastest, holding your tarp, and beat out the other people in line to stake your claim to a premium spot. Lay down your tarp, make sure to mark it with something recognizable like a flag (because tarps only come in a couple colors, and they all look pretty much the same once they are laid out), and go home and get some sleep before the music starts.
3. Be Smart
If you’re not the first, and you’re not the fastest, you can still employ some strategy to ensure a good spot. You can make friends with people at the festival who have some extra room on their tarp at the front, or you can make some friends with people in line and handicap their tarp runs by sharing your liquor or edibles. (See “Ask Jock” in our summer issue.) And if you don’t get a premium spot up front, never fear. When night falls, most of the tarps get rolled up, and everyone staying for the later acts migrates up to the front in a huge mass of writhing, dancing bluegrass fans.