The crowd of 8,000 was a ten on the scale of eclectic. From the upper stratosphere of the moneyed, to the denizens of the Free Box corner, to the blue collared working class whose cowboy hats were authentic, to the fashion statement clothes horses whose cowboy hats were at best an affectation, to the young kids looking for this week’s excuse for a party, to the gray haired pilgrims who had traveled long and hard for this chance to see a childhood idol, to the aging and wanna-be hippies – by far the largest gathering of the hippie tribe I had attended since Eight Hours of the Dead at the Iowa State Fairgrounds almost exactly 35 years earlier.
We all came about 7PM, we all waited to swap our coveted, hand numbered tickets for our wrist bands, we all filed in and walked through the light rain to find our tarps placed by the young runners. The runners had waited all the previous night through the rain and all this day until the gates opened at 5:30PM to sprint across the city park’s baseball field and get their tarps as close as possible to the stage. It was an Oklahoma Land Rush tradition for every concert in this small town of 2,267. We had donated $20 to the runner fund to ensure they had an entertaining day waiting in line for us, as well as provide additional motivation for a premiere spot.
Our runner, alas, had a busy Saturday planned, so we ended up about 30 yards from the stage, mid stage right, perpendicular to the mixing island. We were, however, blessed with excellent site lines down the gentle slope to the permanent stage located about 450 feet to dead straight away center field. Before the warm up band started we could hear the gurgling, tumbling river running behind the bleachers along the right field line as it started down its path, fresh from the still-melting mountain snows high in the peaks around us all the way to the Sea of Cortez.
Many in the crowd knew each other. Shouts of greetings were exchanged, long lost friends were reunited amidst shrieks of joy and laughter, hugs were exchanged. Our friends’ neighbor happened by and asked for directions, the neighbor being renowned as hosting the best poker games in town. Our friend exchanged some casual conversation and pointed the way. It was a time of relaxation, fun and enjoyment for all. A relaxed evening in the city park filled with anticipation for what for many there would be a lifelong awaited, single chance to see and hear the upcoming act.
Eventually the warm up band ended their gig. As we stood and stretched during the intermission I turned to admire the venue. I’ve worked and attended hundreds of live event venues around the world in my life, but none as impressive as this. The view from the stage looked into the box canyon that the small former mining town nestled in. The mountains towered above us and a waterfall cascaded down the sheer wall of the blunt end of the box canyon that formed this most unique place. It was a triumph of professionalism that the musicians could perform rather than stand stunned into silence by this majestic beauty.
The stage lights dimmed. The crowd stood as one in tingling anticipation, even our friend’s neighbor here in Telluride, Colorado, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
The Voice of God microphone boomed, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Columbia recording artist – Bob Dylan.”
The rain ceased and the night began.