TELLURIDE – Telluride’s public radio station, KOTO, has agreed to flip-flop the dates of its two music festivals next summer, resolving a heated “David and Goliath” conflict with Telluride Mushroom Festival supporters who did not want to share their small, grassroots festival with KOTO’s huge new rock and roll fest called The Ride.
In a grand switcharoo, Shroomfest will now have its mid-August weekend to itself, while KOTO’s smallish Doo-Dah Festival (formerly scheduled for mid-July) moves to the last weekend of August, and The Ride shifts to July 12-14.
The decision was formalized at a joint meeting of Telluride Town Council and the Town of Telluride’s Parks and Recreation Commission and Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events on Friday, Dec. 14, on the heels of a contentious Town Council meeting earlier in the week.
The two meetings could not have been more different. The first, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, was filled with tension and hostility as perhaps 50 community members voiced their disparate opinions to a divided council about whether The Ride and Shroomfest could coexist on the same weekend.
After close to three hours of often antagonistic comments and discussion, council agreed to postpone its decision on the matter to Friday’s special joint meeting.
In the intervening 72 hours, KOTO held an emergency board meeting at which The Ride’s promoter Todd Creel of Telluride Productions stepped down as KOTO board president to neutralize allegations of a conflict of interest, and agreed to ask town officials to swap the dates of Doo-Dah and The Ride.
The proposed swap, however, would inevitably impact a host of other events already scheduled in Telluride for the weekend of July 12-14. So KOTO representatives approached organizers of the Telluride Yoga Festival, the Playwrights Festival and the Hardrock 100 ultra-endurance run, asking them to share their own already busy July weekend with The Ride.
Remarkably, all three entities agreed to cooperate with the new plan.
A sticker attached to the Telluride Town Council’s dais set the theme for Friday’s meeting: “Choose Civility.”
Janice Zink, representing KOTO, presented the date-swap proposal to the elected officials and committee members assembled in the room, and apologized for the animosity the situation with Shroomfest had created.
“If we had known from beginning this would happen, we wouldn’t have pushed forward with it,” she said. “We really would like to put out an olive branch to Mushroom Festival. To anyone who perceived a problem, we apologize. We would like to do what’s best for the community.”
Telluride Playwright Festival director Jennie Franks spoke next, expressing a willingness to be flexible regarding the timing of her event. She said that TPF “cannot compete” with The Ride in the same time slot, but proposed a unique solution to that problem, moving Playwrights up by a week to create a weeklong “theater week” in Telluride in cooperation with Shakespeare in the Park, which traditionally takes place in Town Park in late July. She proposed that TPF could also take place on the fourth week of July, with performances at the Sheridan Opera House from July 22-28.
KOTO, meanwhile, committed to helping the Shakespeare group do a quick turnover of the Town Park stage once The Ride wraps up.
“There is a lot of adjustment for all of us, but I hope maybe we can all work this out,” Franks said. “It needs everybody to help us, to say, all right, this is Theater Week, and to acknowledge and promote it. It could be a happening thing.
“I don’t think anyone wants to go through this again,” Franks said, of Tuesday’s battle. “It’s been gut-wrenching for everybody.”
“Jennie, I love you!” Mayor Stu Fraser proclaimed.
Franks reiterated her hope that the whole town would help TPF through its transition, “so we can grow something that really nurtures cultural diversity in this town.”
All of those present in the room pronounced Frank’s proposal for a Theater Week festival to be “a perfect solution.”
Pamela Lifton-Zoline of Shroomfest reflected on the rift in the community that has revealed itself over the past few weeks. “What we are is a very passionate community, which is why sometimes there is contention,” she said. “KOTO has made an incredibly generous move, as have Jennie and the Theater. We tremendously appreciate it, and are incredibly sorry for the confusion that happened.”
Lifton-Zoline voiced the concern of many in the community – that the real problem is that Telluride’s summer festival season has grown too big, too fast, and that measures must be taken to protect those smaller festivals that represent the spirit of Telluride’s cultural diversity from being swallowed by larger-scale commercial music festivals.
“What we really need to do is recognize that very large festivals change town in a different way than a multitude of smaller things,” she said. “We need to decide how many of those we want over a year, decide when those weekends are and stick to that so there isn’t an overly dramatic situation that gets everyone crazy.”
Councilor Chris Meyers praised the process that resulted in Friday’s happy solution. “Had the Mushroom Fest not put their foot down and been a non-collaborator, we wouldn’t have had this discussion, and had the genius in this room,” he noted. “Non-collaboration is allowing the collaboration to take place.”
KOTO, meanwhile, is regrouping in the wake of the conflict and Creel’s resignation.
“Honestly, it’s a win-win situation,” said Zink after Friday’s meeting. “We are very happy with the result. In comparison to Tuesday, this was a love fest. KOTO is thrilled with the outcome and we look forward to collaborating. We sincerely want to thank Yoga, Hardrock, Shakespeare and the Playwright Festival to allow the dates to be transferred. This is how it’s done. Now, let’s move forward and try to cooperate.”
The KOTO board’s newly elected president Ray Farnsworth told The Watch that KOTO gets 100 percent of beer booth revenues from The Ride, which will help make up a projected shortfall in 2013 when KOTO anticipates losing the rights to operate the Bluegrass beer booth. Typically, Bluegrass beer booth revenues have made up about 20 percent of KOTO’s $365,000 annual budget.
In The Ride’s first year, KOTO earned about $30,000 in beer booth revenues. “That was hugely important,” Farnsworth said.