What to expect at TBF as first timers? Mary E Ilium Campground

Hey everyone!:wave:
My husband & I are going to be at TBF for the first time this year & we cannot wait!!! I apologize if I’m posting this in the wrong spot - please let me know if this needs to be moved!! We snagged 4 day passes with Mary E Camping. Can anyone provide some good pointers for us newbies in regard to the festival? Things to expect/be aware of?

What is the venue like - are we able to bring chairs to sit in the front or is it all standing?

Anything to note about the campground? What is the shuttle like?

Im a very nervous nelly & like to be super prepared so thank you so much in advance!!!:grin:


First off your going to hear a few repeated things from all the regulars, and that is: Get there as early as freaking possible, like as in the campground opens on Saturday at 8am, get there at 6am! Once the festival and music starts it’s all day action all about the music, but before Firstgrass on Wednesday there’s so much fun involving hikes, meals, silly parties, picking parties, and the Town of Telluride. Even you folks in Mary E can come hangout at all the “pre-fest” festivities that go on in the Town Park campgrounds from Wednesday and before. And guess what there’s about 3-4 superfine crazy events everyday, and you get to meat all the super cool people from this forum! Cha Ching! Also so many neat places to check out in and around Telluride it will take you years to explore it all, so come early to get in as much of that as you can. The Shenaningans of TP haven’t quite been unfolded for 2024 yet, but you’ve found your tribe, just keep checking back here, things will be blowing up soon. The shuttle starts running on Wednesday, and goes from around 7am till last shuttle pick up in town around 2am. Peak times will have lines! Mary E can be MTN biked to town about 1 hr ride for beginner rider.


Hey there! Welcome to the Festival! You’re going to love it!
Todd had some great suggestions and feedback. Hopefully like he suggested you will be able to get in at least several days before the actual Festival starts. Mary E. Ilium opens on Saturday morning prior to the Thursday Festival start, but as Todd said, the shuttles don’t start running until Wednesday. It IS possible to drive your car into town before Wednesday but as always parking can be a challenge.
As to the Festival itself, you asked about chairs. Yes! Definitely bring some! But if you’d like to sit in the section closest to the stage, they must be low chairs. “If we can roll a basketball under your chair, we’ll ask you to move out of that section.” The front section is the large semicircular area stretching from the stage to about 100 ft. back. Then there’s a wide walkway with the next section behind, where taller chairs are allowed. And then behind that there is the section where people put up shade structures.
You’ll learn about the famous Tarp Run which takes place every morning of the Festival. That’s when everyone participating lines up according to numbers they’ve received either by waiting in the townside line, or by lottery in the Town Park/Warner Field side. Once allowed in, everyone runs with their tarp or sun shelter to hopefully find their perfect spot for the day! That spot gets staked out and is yours for the day, with the run being repeated each day of the Festival. But not to worry if you can’t be in time to participate. You are encouraged to sit on empty tarps, or ask nicely to join on someone’s tarp. Many lasting friendships have come from meeting friendly Festivarians this way!
You asked about standing. During the day most folks are sitting in their chairs or getting up to dance, which of course one must do! But as the sun starts going down in the evening, especially in the front section, people start crowding in and it does get to standing only in the very front.
Hopefully this all will become quite clear once you’re here! Above all, have fun and likely you’ll become repeat Festivarians like so many of us! FESTIVAAAAALL!


I am also going to TBF for the first time, and I’m trying to figure out what to expect. I’ll be going solo. I have the 4 day pass with Mary E camping and a vehicle pass. I’ll have a tent and a car, and I plan to be at the site on the Saturday. I am concerned about the time between Saturday and Wednesday when the shuttle starts. Will I be able to bring my car in and out during that time? If not, are there any other transportation options besides MTN biking (which is really not a good option for me). I see that there will be water/showers available, but what about ice? Also, how much stuff can I bring on the shuttle?

Thanks, Bob

1 Like

That is super helpful to know - thank you so much!!:grin:

1 Like

Super helpful info - thank you so much!! Is the tarp run only for those camping in Town Park or Warner field? Is the tarp run for if you don’t bring chairs? Just trying to grasp it all😅 lol. As you said, I’m sure things will be clear once we’re there!

I too have the same questions! Ive seen from other posts that without a vehicle pass, we’re parked along the road so we should be able to come and go before Wednesday. Im not sure though with a vehicle pass? Hopefully someone can help clarify!

Are we allowed to bring a wagon or cooler (no glass/alcohol) into the festival? If so, can we bring these on the shuttle?

You can come and go with a Mary E Vehicle pass through Tuesday, it’s pretty chill. Our first year we were in Mary E with a VP.

Tarp run is for anyone who has received a lineup number. Town Park and Warner field get randomly distributed numbers the morning of that day’s run, and there is a line for the town side that gets numbers based on where you are in line. The town line starts getting filled in long before the numbers get handed out. Supposedly you’re not supposed to sleep in this line but everyone does. It starts forming the night before, often before the last band from the night before is finished.
Oh, and yes. If you’re running you might want to be as unencumbered as possible, carrying only the tarp you intend to throw down. Let your partner bring in the chairs and wagon, etc., after the Tarp Run. You are allowed to bring in all kind of stuff. Wagons filled with food, drinks, kid care items, etc. No outside alcohol, though, although much does somehow get snuck in.


Thank you so much for taking the time to explain!!:blush:

One important thing to consider as far as shuttle goes, even though there’s one coming and going about every 20 minutes, It takes over a full hour to get from festival grounds back to campsite at Mary E, and back to festival grounds. So most folks leave in the morning with everything they’ll need for the entire day/night. Bare minimum that’s clothing for three seasons, rain/snow gear and probably chairs. Telluride in June can feel like 90 degrees in the full sun, and it quickly drops to winter coat weather as soon as the sun sets, also it can go from sunny and warm to cold and rain/snow/hail in minutes so you’ll want clothing layers for a variety of weather everyday. If you do have to go back and forth, you will miss parts of or all of whatever sets you leave during, as I said there’s no way to do the round trip in under an hour. Also be sure and meet all your neighbors, both in camp and in festival, you’ll probably make life long friends, I know we have, and those friends are what’s kept us coming back.


Your knowledge share is so very much appreciated!! We will definitely get to know our neighbors! I hate to even be asking this & I hope this isn’t the case, but is theft an issue at the festival?

Also, my husband was curious about how best to pack our food giving the wildlife in the area. Is it best to keep it in our car or storage totes?

Theft isn’t a big problem. I would probably lock my bike if I was going to be gone for the day just to be safe. But it’s never been an issue in the 10 years I’ve been going.

As far as food, I would keep it in plastic tubs or something similiar. The chipmunks and magpies take advantage of any opportunity they can get to snag your bread and snacks. A fellow camper lost 3 pounds of cashews overnight becaue they forgot to zip up their storage all the way. I wouldn’t really worry about bears or larger scavengers too much during bluegrass. Too many people around for them to want to be wandering through the campground.



Thank you soo much, that is super helpful!! 3 pounds overnight is impressive hahah!

Needless to say, they were not very happy to disvover that in the morning. And it was early too, before the first Saturday landrush. No festy cashews for the humans!

1 Like

You sure it was chipmunks, and not some Run-a-Muck folks looking for a late night snack?

1 Like

Not really

idk why there are drums, I specifically requested no drums


Uh huh