Of the five biological kingdoms, fungi is definitely the oddball. So, to celebrate mushrooms' many mysteries, Telluride's annual Shroomfest - set to run Aug. 16-19 - will both educate and entertain."It's a celebration of the mushroom world," event organizer and mushroom enthusiast Art Goodtimes said.Goodtimes, also known as "Shroompa," has been organizing and directing the festival since its inception.From the budding mushroom enthusiast to the hard-core mushroom fanatic, this festival has something for everyone, Goodtimes said. There's more than 60 seminars, cooking classes, even an entertaining parade. The annual chef cook-off starts at noon on Friday, Aug. 17, and Saturday's class offerings include a course on ... zombies? Embrace the strange with "Aflatoxins to Zombies: The weird weird chemistry of fungi." "(Mushrooms are) a booming industry. There's good money to be made if you know what you're doing," Goodtimes added.The psychedelic and entheogenic properties of mushrooms will also be discussed at the festival through forums and lectures."We're very interested in their place in society," Goodtimes said, in reference to taboos and stigmas about the psychoactive properties of certain mushrooms. However, "that's not the focus," of the festival, he said. "It's also cooking, hunting, learning and identification."
For 31 years, Shroomfest in Telluride has celebrated the diverse and unique properties of fungi. Dr. Emanuel Salzman of Beth Israel Hospital originally organized mushroom festivals in Aspen, Snowmass and Crested Butte, but was displeased with the lack of support for exploration of the entheogenic and psychedelic properties of mushrooms. So in 1981, Salzman teamed up with Goodtimes, then the art director of the Telluride Institute, and the festival came to Telluride. Professional mycologists, professors, and other fungal experts now travel to the remote mountain town from all over the country to speak and share knowledge about the fungal world. The University Center of San Miguel will be offering education credits in the study of fungi in conjunction with events at the festival.The festival is more than just classes and seminars, however. A mushroom-themed parade, followed by a drum circle and a dance party is a central tradition at the mushroom festival."The parade (Saturday, Aug. 18) is the fun thing. We all dress up as mushrooms, and anyone is welcome to join," Goodtimes said. "It's great for the whole family. Bring your kids."Tickets are $160 before the festival starts, and $175 at the festival gates. The parade and events afterward are free to the public. For more information, history, a schedule of events, or to purchase tickets, visit www.shroomfest.com. A full schedule and list of events is available at www.shroomfest.com/schedule.