Mushroom Festival Seeks to Raise Awareness and Engage the Public

The 33rd Annual Telluride Mushroom Festival is upon us, and this weekend, it’s all about science. This year’s festival, held from Aug. 15-19, promises guided forays, keynote speakers, film screenings and celebrity chef demonstrations—and a few new features.

One feature introduced this year is a voucher program, said Heather Lyne, festival manager. Lyne explained that through the program, anyone, including those with a ticket to the festival, will be able to forage for mushrooms and have their finds analyzed.

“We encourage people to take note of where they found their mushrooms, take pictures, any kind of evidence that can help us classify them more,” she said. “From there we set off via a mycology group to a lab, and those will be compared to other mushrooms around the world.

“We’re really excited about that, and the idea of pushing citizens into participating. You don’t have to have a ticket to be involved in the voucher program.”

Beyond the voucher program, which will be located in Elks Park, there will be a microbrew kickoff party Friday and a chefs’ cook-off Saturday. Nine chefs and four judges will be participating in the cook-off , in which they’ll prepare dishes out of their foraged mushrooms. There will also be a parade and costume contest Sunday. In addition to these public events, there will be various lectures, films and activities, Lyne said.

This year’s festival is expected to draw around 500 people. Lyne said around 800 attended last year’s cook-off, and said ticket sales are ahead of what they were last year. In addition to being the 33rd anniversary of the festival, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Telluride Institute, a non-profit organization focused on sustainability and one of the festival’s partners.

Lyne said she hopes the festival raises awareness of mushrooms beyond their uses in the kitchen.

“There is a whole other aspect beyond the culinary,” she said. “We hope everyone realizes there is a real academic science behind it, too. Mushrooms are being used in treatments for things like posttraumatic stress disorder and autism. You never know what could be the big breakthrough.”

Tickets for the festival are available at