Telluride Mushroom Festival

This Colorado Mushroom Festival Draws Visitors From Around the World — See the Magic of It All

Photographer Theo Stroomer shares his experience at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.

Katrina Blair walked for a week to get to the Telluride Mushroom Festival in Colorado.

Telluride Mushroom Festival
A mushroom hunting foray during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 21, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer

A wild foods expert, nonprofit founder, and restaurateur, Blair traveled more than 70 miles on foot from Durango to cook and present. 

Telluride Mushroom Festival
Mary Beath studies a map before going on an organized mushroom foray during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 20, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
People foraging for mushrooms at the Telluride Mushroom Festival
Fellow foragers Liz Bik and Julian Paik (center) pose for a portrait while foraging for mushrooms during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 20, 2021. Cassandra Owen (right) forages during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 21, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer

Other visitors came from around the world — Canada, Chile, and Hawaii. Mushrooms and mushroom lovers popped up everywhere for the extended weekend in August. The festival, now in its 41st year, offers lectures, mushroom identification, networking opportunities, gourmet meals, and forays for foraging.

Telluride Mushroom Festival
Mary Beath brushes a mushroom she found while foraging at the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 20, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Foraged mushrooms during the Telluride Mushroom Festival
A shrimp russula mushroom, honey mushrooms foraged during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 21, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
A blanket displaying all the mushrooms found while foraging.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer

After a rainy evening to start my trip (ideal for mushrooms), I joined a morning foray to forage with other mushroom enthusiasts. We were set loose in a mountain meadow, finding fungi in the forest and collecting them to identify each one. The mountains are rich with mushrooms; our group found several dozen varieties in the span of a few hours. 

Telluride Mushroom Festival
A king bolete mushroom being snacked on in the wilderness.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
Onlookers in the ID tent during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 21, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
Mushroom jewelry for sale during the festival.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
Roger Levine studies a western giant puffball mushroom on a display table.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer

Later in the weekend, there's a parade through downtown Telluride, complete with mycologically-inspired costumes. Attendees prepare weeks or even months in advance. "Mine will be a pholiota squarrosa," Debbie Klein told me at the hostel where we were staying. (Her costume included Hershey's Kisses to mimic the shaggy spines atop the mushroom's cap.) 

On that Saturday afternoon, Phoenix Fuller Thelonius True Heart Skookum River Blythe Ford showed off an "inky cap" outfit nearly eight feet tall during the parade. Five friends, wrapped in plastic, combined forces to become a package of wispy enoki. Marchers sang and danced, carrying mushroom signs. 

People in elaborate, homemade costumes for the Telluride Mushroom Festival
Left: A mushroom headdress. Right: Debbie Klein in her costume, a pholiota squarrosa mushroom, including Hershey's Kisses on the cap.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
The Mushroom Festival parade passed through Telluride's main street as onlookers watched.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
Sign holders during the Telluride Mushroom Festival parade, and in the middle, Phoenix Fuller Thelonius True Heart Skookum River Blythe Ford shows off an inky cap mushroom costume made for the festival.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer
Telluride Mushroom Festival
A mushroom truck and five mushrooms made up the enoki mushroom costume entrant for the costume contest during the Telluride Mushroom Festival on August 21, 2021.
| Credit: Theo Stroomer

As the parade wrapped up, I asked a man with mismatched psychedelic socks what his plans were for the evening. "Eat some mushrooms," he told me, smiling.