2023 Noob Guide
So you’ve been fortunate enough to score some Town Park tickets but…what next!? What’s all of the hype about and how does it all work? I aim to explain that below.
Since @TellurideTom’s awesome “Town Park Virgin” thread is currently sitting at over 1200 replies, I thought it might be helpful to consolidate as much as I could into a more digestible format. Definitely dig into that thread as well and post any questions not addressed here over there.
If you have suggestions to improve on this, please contribute below and I’ll do my best to wrap everything together. Please note that this guide has a lot of specifics intended solely for Town Park. Warner Field allows entry into Town Park and vice versa but if you don’t have either of these passes, a lot of this will not apply to your situation. This currently only covers up until Fest but it may be expanded later.
If this is your first TBF at Town Park, welcome! In my experience you will not find a better group of individuals from all walks of life as you will here. Not to oversell it but prepare to be awestruck by the scenery, the music, and most importantly, the people.
Above all, the most important thing I’ve learned about Town Park and TBF in general is that the so called “Festivarians” are a unique group. I’ll try to sum the philosophy up in no particular order:
*Take care of others.
*Take care of yourself.
*Have fun but not at another’s expense.
*Clean up after yourself.
If you have questions when you arrive, just ask! Someone will certainly help you out.
TOWN PARK LAYOUT:
Town Park consists of 3 sections. With all three, you can camp anywhere aside from roads, paths, past the waterfall ‘no camping sign’ or taped off areas such as revegetation zones. Regardless of which area you end up in, be wary of low spots as they can collect rain during storms. Also be aware that camping near the river (which runs through all 3 areas), can help drown out noise (a pro or a con depending on your style) but it tends to be significantly chillier. You may not camp within 30 feet of a water source.
The first area is the Town Park Campground which exists as a regular campground outside of fest. During non-fest times, this area has numbered vehicle camping spots. This area is generally relatively shaded although there are patches with full sun. Once Planet Bluegrass takes over, tent camping is allowed here in and among the campers/trailers and numbered spots which are reserved for those with Vehicle Passes.
During fest, the Bear Creek Preserve (aka Zone 1) opens for tent camping only. Bear Creek is quite shaded with patches of sun. This area is where a lot of the pre-fest events happen and it can be a little loud here at night depending on who you camp next to. Picking circles/jams happen at all hours of the day and night here so if you decide to camp here need your ‘beauty rest’, be sure to bring some earplugs. There are relatively quiet areas of Bear Creek as well. If this is a major concern to you and you don’t want to camp in Primitive, ask around and some of the veterans can point you to the right area. This area requires a “Zone 1 pass” to set up camp. You’ll find avid discussion of this here from when it was initially instituted in 2022.
Directly adjacent to the regular campground, across a walking bridge, the Primitive Area is available for tent camping. This area is slightly more remote from the actual festival but is typically not much more of a haul than Bear Creek Preserve/Zone 1. However, this area can be a little more laid back and quieter. It will take just a minute or two longer to get to the entrance to the festival and the shower/restrooms. Primitive has a few spots with picnic tables (they go quickly), some shade, and a large open field.
Port-a-potties are dispersed throughout Bear Creek/Zone 1 and the Campground. There are not any in Primitive but even at the furthest point within primitive, you can find them a two minute walk away. Be mindful of how close to those you camp. They’re cleaned daily but they can get a little…special as time goes on.
This will all make more sense once you get there and start walking around. Bring a tarp with you and walk around to scope out spots. If you’re not sure what to do or where to camp, ask around and someone will help you out!
Here’s my attempt at a map of the areas. Yellow is Bear Creek Preserve (zone 1), blue is the ‘normal’ area, red is Primitive, and green is Warner field. I’ve also marked a few other areas of interest so explore around a bit. I’m sure some things are slightly off but that should give you the gist - you’ll want to zoom in a bit to get a feel for things. Here’s a static map.
Camping in Town Park is different from most other festivals you may have been to in the past. With Town Park, vehicle passes are extremely limited and, in tune with the Festivarian Mindset mentioned above, they are unofficially reserved for those with mobility issues, medical concerns, or those who are expecting or with young children. I know you just bought your awesome camper or retrofitted a sweet adventure van but, you’re best off to bring your tent instead. If you absolutely must use your vehicle to camp in and don’t have the issues mentioned above, you may want to check out Ilium or Lawson Hill campgrounds instead.
There’s always a list of folks who need these passes to be able to attend TBF so if you have one and want to be a good Festivarian, please contact me by clicking on “message” here and we’ll get them in the right hands.
Okay cool. Let’s roll on some specifics.
NEW IN 2022 (and continued through 2023): Zone 1 Land Rush:
At 8am on the Saturday preceding the actual festival, Planet Bluegrass takes over and the Bear Creek Preserve/Zone 1 opens and people who have zone 1 passes run to claim a spot by throwing down tarps. For 2022 and subsequent years, there will be a lottery to determine entrance order (not unlike they do for festival entrance) but the precise details are still forthcoming.
Primitive/TP Campground Land Rush:
If you do not have Zone 1 passes, you will be unable to start setting up your campsite until the next land rush at 2pm for TP Proper & Primitive. Primitive and the ‘normal’ Town Park Campground will open at 2:30pm on the same Saturday. Full explanation of 2022 land rush here
General Notes On Land Rush:
It’s important to note that you definitely do not need to be a part of land rush to find a good spot. Things start filling in as time goes on but there are plenty of great spots on Saturday/Sunday and even into Monday. More on this later.
Land rush is over and you’ve claimed your spot. You’ll head back to your vehicle and will drive to one of the 2 unloading spots (yellow tornadoes on this map). Why did I choose tornadoes you ask? You’ll find out during land rush. Anywho, here you will have about 30 minutes or so to get everything out of your vehicle and dump off all of your stuff at your site. There are a few kind people who bring wheelbarrows/wagons to help you unload but these are not guaranteed to be available so if you have a ton of stuff (like I always do), please plan accordingly. Things are a bit chaotic during this phase with so many cars shuffling in and out. Follow staff directions and be patient, you’ll get there in time! Try to get your vehicle in and out of there as quickly as possible to help others get unloaded.
If you show up after land rush as you enter town you’ll be directed to Town Park where you’ll just drive up to one of the stars and start unloading.
Upon removing your gear from your vehicle, you’ll be directed to a parking spot. Either along the streets, Carhenge (near the entrance to town), or Mountain Village. This will be dictated by your arrival time and volunteers will point you in the right direction. If you are looking to park after unloading on pre-fest Saturday you will most likely be directed to park on Main Street/Colorado Ave/Highway 145. Vehicle Gate staff/volunteer will direct you uphill towards the waterfalls to park but only to the the cemetery pull-out on the left. After that parking will move to either Carhenge or along Mahoney Street down by the high school roundabout. Always check with the TP vehicle staff as the parking location can change from one car to another leaving Town Park as Planet Bluegrass tracks actual spots available and two-way radios the vehicle gate when the parking moves.
The walk back from Carhenge is about 20 minutes. You can either walk through town or along the San Miguel River (I recommend the latter for the scenery). We often bring a bike so whoever ends up taking the car back just cruises back to camp to finish setting up. If you end up at Mountain Village, you’ll take the gondola back down and walk back to Town Park ~10 minutes. It’s important to note that once Fest starts, you will not be able to drive your vehicle as all of the streets are barricaded unless you have a designated pass to drive around town (this is mostly limited to residents and these are not available for purchase).
More About The Map :
It’s really hard to encompass Town Park into a little map like this but here are some pointers. The big building you see in the center of the campgrounds by the festival grounds is Hanley Ice Rink - basically a multipurpose building. This building is open Wednesday-Monday 7am-11am and is a good place to charge a phone, grab wifi, or hit up one of the restrooms. Just above that to the left a bit is the pool. Here there are showers and restrooms. You can also pay to get into the pool if you’d like. You’ll also find the TP bathhouse, bridge to primitive, waterfall, camp host, ice for sale, and a few other mysterious features floating around.
When to get there:
This all depends on your party size and your tolerance for flexibility. As mentioned, some folks arrive well before the fest to make certain that they get the exact spot they want. The closer you get to the Fest, the more people will pile in and everything will become more crowded. The later you show up from Saturday, you’ll still find a spot BUT you may need to be a little more adaptable as time goes on. If you’re 1 or 2 people with a small setup, it’ll be easy to shoehorn in. If you plan on a large group with several tents and plan on showing up late, you may not be able to craft an elaborate setup. Everyone who has a ticket WILL have a place to camp but things do get a bit tight by Wednesday.
Whew. You landed at your spot and are (mostly) unpacked. First things first, grab yourself a beverage. You deserve it. You made it! Relax. If you didn’t have your wristbands mailed to you, at some point you’ll want to head to the box office/will call to pick them up. Will call is located near town park, one block off of the main downtown drag, across the street from the post office. In the past hours have been Sat & Sun 12-4, 10-6 Tues, 9-10 Weds, 8-Close Thurs, 9-Close Fri-Sun.
I’ll leave it to you to build an all encompassing packing list but here are some helpful hints. At this time of the year, it gets HOT during the day and COLD during the night. It’s been known to snow and it’s also been into the mid 80’s (which feels like 100 at altitude) so plan accordingly. Wood fires are not allowed in TP. However, propane fueled cooking and warming devices are allowed. Charcoal is okay, but only in the pre-established grills - subject to local fire restrictions. Please be responsible when using these. Non-live amplified music is frowned upon but picking is highly encouraged!
As for food, you could probably survive by eating in town or inside of the Fest for every meal but it’s not going to be cheap. Remember that this is a resort town. There’s ice for sale for $3/bag (I think 5 lbs?) around TP at the campground host and via enterprising deliverers so you’ll be able to keep your goodies nice and cold. It’s convenient but a little pricey so try to pick some up on the way in. Please bring your ice bags to us at Camp Trailer Smash. We take them to CHaRM in Boulder for recycling or they get recycled into trex decks through Ridwell - more on that in a moment.
There are a few grocery stores/markets in town but again, they’re not cheap so plan on maybe picking up the bulk of your food out of town. There are also a couple of places to buy liquor. But again you’ll find prices a little higher than you might be accustomed to so bring your favorites with you. Some folks like to try to grab some beer from the local breweries along the way. Telluride Brewing and Dolores Brewing (open at 4 pm daily) have great beers.
There is a hardware store (Timberline Ace Hardware Store) just a 5 minute walk from TP. They sell everything you might have forgotten, from fest chairs to tent patches. They’ve saved me more than once. As mentioned, showers are available in TP, one facility in the Town Park Campground and one right next to the pool. There’s often a small wait at peak hours (early morning and mid-afternoon) but it’s not that bad. Showers are limited to 5 minutes of hot water for $3 in tokens (bring $1s and $5s!). Token machines are located outside both shower facilities. If you prepare everything before your shower, most folks can knock it out in that time. If you need more time, just add more tokens! You can also get a free shower token if you purchase entrance into the pool. Tokens cannot be sold back for cash - they must be used or traded. There are also showers available on a donation basis at the High School which isn’t too far away (medium walk or short bike ride). Additionally, there are sinks by the bath house for doing dishes. Please do not dump your gray water on the ground - you may dispose of it in these sinks.
Clean water is provided around Town Park. FYI, dogs (or any pets) are not allowed at TP. There are a couple of charging areas around TP - namely Hanley and the restroom/shower/dishwashing/water area just ‘up’ from there on the map. A bicycle can prove helpful to run to town for supplies, getting to Elk’s Park, Nightgrass, etc. Festivarians are a trustworthy group but keep in mind that TP is open to the public before the fest so you may want a lock to wrap it up to a tree (please be absolutely certain not to damage the trees if you do this. Use either a coated cable/chain or pick up some of that foam pipe insulation stuff to put your lock through). If you’ve set up camp but need to leave for a few days, just let your neighbors know to keep an eye on things for you.
Bring cash. The ATM in the festival has very long lines. There are a couple of banks in town with ATMs as well but I believe they have run out a few times in the past.
There are big recycling/compost/trash containers on site between Hanley and the TP Bathrooms. Please practice a “Leave No Trace” policy. Our good friends at Whiskey Pond, (2019 Hippie Jerry Campsite Challenge Winners) put together an incredible writeup on sustainable Festivation here. More Sustainable/LNT information here. Whiskey Pond, Camp Tribute, and Camp Trailer Smash will be hosting a number of Terracycle bins for hard to recycle materials, likely including batteries, earplugs, bottle caps, corks, snack/bar wrappers and more. Look for details on the corner by the waterfall and also on @whiskeypondlnt on Instagram.
Please be respectful of roped off areas (green “Planet Bluegrass” boundary tape), especially the revegetation zones, and instructional signs. Planet Bluegrass works closely with the Telluride Open Space Commission to prevent and mitigate the festival’s impacts on the preserve. Respecting this effort allows us the privilege of camping in this beautiful area which represents the soul of the Festival’s culture to many.
Pre Fest Events:
The real fun begins. Various pre-fest shenanigans occur from Saturday before Fest through the end of everything. Count on being rather entertained. Things like the Goddess Walk, Rumballs, Crunchy Frogs, Crawfish Boil, RaM Shenanigans, AhMen for Ramen, Wings & Strings, Town Park Concerts, Picking Circles, Tropical Tuesday, Barbosa BBQ, Bloody Marys, Beer Tasting by the waterfall , etc. All are welcome to these announced events! Your fellow Festivarians provide these things out of their own pockets to support the entire experience so please contribute with your time, money, and/or in-kind donations to help keep these traditions alive!
2023 Events Calendar:
Calendar of scheduled Town Park Events, Main Stage, Nightgrass, and Workshops (as announced)
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If you have questions that aren’t addressed in this writeup, please post them here and I’ll continue to build out this guide over time.
I look forward to seeing you all up there!
Camp Trailer Smash (We’re near Crossroads and Hulaganz, by the waterfall. Our normal camp is likely in reveg for 2023 so we may be elsewhere but hopefully close! Stop by and say hi!