Exodous to Bluegrass
by tommy kirchhoff
Wild Utah strives to be the local rag with the Utah bag. But when tremendously large counts of Utahans caravan out of state to an event like Bluegrass, Wild Utah's all over it.
While the word Utah is somewhat synonymous with sobriety, Telluride's literal implication is intoxication. "To Hell U Ride" is its widely accepted synonym.
The music at Bluegrass is top-notch. Sam Bush, Natalie Merchant, Bruce Hornsby, Jackson Brown, Bela Fleck and several surprise performances by Bonnie Raitt size that up instantly. But there's also unmatched mountain scenery, wildly eclectic personalities, unquestionably rugged weather, and variate intoxications that Utah will never ever control. One female Utahan summed it up well at this year's festival: "Bluegrass isn't just about Bluegrass."
A short seven-hour drive from the Wasatch Front, Telluride, Colorado is so pro drugs and alcohol that it only makes a perfect sanctum for a restless Utahan. Several times, Telluride has tried to legalize marijuana-as a town government. All the hoopla at this year's show was about one of the first drug-interdiction traffic stops ever in the area. It took place across the county line in neighboring Dolores County.
How did Telluride react to this? Well, public radio KOTO aired numerous "heads up" reports to listeners to avoid search and seizure, and offered advisement as to 'what constitutes probable cause.'
The Daily Planet, Telluride's long-standing daily newspaper (and the one we call Papa), printed a before and after of this interdiction. The before captured the news-a seemingly slighted, "by the book," Dolores-police point of view. The after, printed post-festival, contained direct quotes from people saying they were dragged out of their cars by SWAT team-types, who were then sniffed by drug dogs. Planet Editor Bob Beer wrote a touching, if not political, essay regarding the fight for fourth amendment rights. Bob quoted a Justice Department retiree who said in court that he knows cops lie. Between music sets, the commentators repeatedly found themselves long in the tooth talking about the lawsuit that was going to be filed against Dolores County for this kind of abomination.
But the interdiction didn't stop the party. At last count, 397 kegs of beer had been consumed by the festival close on Saturday (the record is 500 kegs for the four days, which Sunday's numbers should have broken). The amount of pot smoked was staggering. It was for sale in moderate abundance, as were psilocybin mushrooms. Bonnie Raitt was wearing a marijuana necklace at one point, guys from Aspen were selling coke for $60 a gram, and most of the people in possession of this tripamundo, liquid acid just couldn't be found. If you could talk to them, they definitely couldn't vend, and hardly knew their own names.
How many Utahans made it to Bluegrass? Hard to say. But when the MC ran through the list of affiliated public radio stations, more of the 12,000 plus ticketholders cheered at the mention of Salt Lake City, Utah than any other location. In the 1999 Bluegrass survey, over 37 percent of the festivarians said they had traveled between 250 and 500 miles to reach the tiny mountain town. As one Park City resident put it, "I've been saving up braincells for this for a long time."
The hula-hoop section was impressive, corralling somewhere in the range of 30 hoopers at any given time. Rastafarians moved rather slowly and smelled of patchouli. Flame jugglers and spinners had to keep on the move from a necessarily-dry fireman force. A kid walking on tall stilts, dressed up as a clown, took the nastiest fall and couldn't get back up. A long-haired hippie was touting his "unsinkable," remote-controlled rat-ship (with live rat) on the children's fishing pond; while a Telluride resident made his living selling pictures of his mouse on his cat on his dog (one of the last true novelties). Because of this kind of shit, people don't really need intoxication in Telluride. But somehow, it meshes well with the environment.
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