The Running of the Tarps at Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Telluride House Band, by Brian Omura
Telluride House Band, by Brian Omura

Real estate in Telluride may be expensive, but perhaps no Telluride real estate is as valuable as the tarp space in front of the bluegrass stage.

Prime seating for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival is so coveted that people sleep outside in line the night before, just so that they can be in the front of the pack for the Running of the Tarps.

There is no designated seating at the festival, so the only way to get a good spot for the day is to jockey for position in the tarp run. People line up the night before or in the pre-dawn hours to ensure that they get a good number (numbers are handed out in the morning before the gates open) and then once the bagpipes play and the festival opens, they run as fast as they can and claim their spot.

It’s a thankless job, being the tarp martyr. Only one person from your group needs to sleep outside in the cold mountain air and make the mad dash to the stage, and once the festivities begin and the tarp becomes home base for the day, their sacrifice is mostly forgotten. But for the runner, it’s a memorable experience. The late-night line is a place of bonding between fellow festivarians, and the scramble of sleep-deprived runners trying to carry tarps and gear is a spectacle. Cheers to all the runners this year; dress warmly, bring a sleeping bag, and don’t be afraid to snooze between sets and remind your friends that they owe you one for their view of the stage.