Feedback on Local's Pass Dilemma

For some reason, the article isn’t appearing on the Telluride Daily Planet’s website directly (as a clickable html link), but you can read it by clicking on the “Read Print Version” via PDF at:

… then it’s necessary to select “December 14” from the drop down menu, where the article start on the bottom of the front page.

While I think it’s definitely a good thing that TBG festival is continuing to seek to help locals get a chance to buy a ticket (and at a slightly discounted rate to boot), I believe the old merchant pass system actually had some merrits which deserve to be revisited.

First off, I should say I’ve never used a merchant pass in 20 years or so I’ve lived in the area. Aside from this past year when bought a 4-day pass once I heard the news about huge demand, for the past 5-10 years I typically used to wait until the Thursday morning to see what shook lose from the scalper / overflow market on the low end and normally lucked out @ about $125 on average.

Second, I do know for a fact the merchant pass system was abused by some in the past … and perhaps PB allowed things to slide because it could accommodate the overflow when demand wasn’t bursting at the seems and people setting up their tarps at what was once real estate for food lines.

Getting to the gist of my $.02 … I think the merchant pass system was actually an excellent concept which allows locals who work throughout the weekend to come and go when possible & simultaneously allow business owners the chance to provide a benefit to their employees to be “included” in the party while still keeping their storefront open. In theory and on paper it’s a great idea, but I believe both the enforcement and expectations were historically extremely lax … so when everything tightened up last year, the problem really stuck out like an eyesore.

I like the fact that PB has tried to accommodate the local demand in some way, but would’ve preferred to have seen an increased enforcement of the old system with perhaps a very strong message to re-align expectations as to strict enforcement of such … even if it means increasing the cost of the merchant passes to address the added enforcement resources needed.

The big reason I feel this way is that a 4-day pass is often not a realistic option for a local who’s working 3 different jobs or simply trying to juggle their hours … and often times a single business will have multiple employees who all want to attend Bluegrass in some capacity & will now be forced to be more strict / less flexible on scheduling. In others words, the 4-day pass is much more of an all or nothing proposition vs. the flexibility the old merchant pass afforded … even with strict enforcement.

I’m certainly not looking to drum up negative waves, but simply offer some constructive criticism on this front … since it kind of feels like the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater. Nonetheless, I realize the whole influx of huge demand has created a whole new slew of issues to contend with … so perhaps there was too much too fast thrown @ PB.


Great points about the merchant passes. In the years we’ve gone, we’ve talked to many working locals that looked forward to catching a set here or there when they could, on breaks or between shifts.

Seems like something could be made with some anti-counterfeiting features, a lanyard card or something special that could be transferrable and there’d be only one per pass sold. if it gets “lost” then- oh, well, too bad. You’re right in that a 4 day pass won’t cut it for any waiters, waitresses, shop workers, etc., that work more often than not during the fest.

The core idea is great PR and a source of goodwill…as long as the devil doesn’t creep into the details.

I hope they can figure something out.