by Art Goodtimes
In spite of the lingering drought in most of Colorado, this year’s Mushroom Festival, sponsored by the Telluride Institute and one of the oldest on-going events in the country (going on 32 years), saw plentiful fungi of all kinds Aug. 16-19, 2012, as the heavily loaded identification tables in Elks Park demonstrated. The entire town got involved. For four days, simultaneous events took place in the 500-seat Palm Theatre, the smaller but cozy Nugget Theatre, the award-winning Wilkinson Library, historic Swede-Finn Hall, town-owned Elks Park across from the County Courthouse on Main Street, a County meeting room in Miramonte Building, various foray locations in the local Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests and even at Smuggler Joe’s brewpub – where several tasty myco-medicinal brews were concocted especially for the festival.
One of my favorite edibles is looked on askance by many – Hawk’s Wing (Sarcodon imbricatus, formerly Hydnum imbricatum). As Wikipedia notes: “It is reported as edible but of poor quality in the United States by some sources, but as deliciously edible by others.” Being in the latter camp, I felt wonderfully vindicated when a dish made of its toothy flesh won the Chefs Cook-off this year at the Wilkinson. Over a hundred people sampled various mushroom dishes before the winners were chosen – a couple from Southern California, Andre Kohler and Erica Wohldmann. Last year the winner made Candy Cap ice cream.
It was impossible this year to catch every presentation, so here are some of the highlights from my limited perspective.
We learned from flamboyant University of Wisconsin mycologist Tom Volk (both arms covered in rainbow-hued mycelial tattoos and sporting wildly dyed forelocks) that unbaked bread dough, taken in quantity, could make one drunk, thanks to its yeast content – yeast being a eukaryotic microorganism classified in the Kindom [sic] Fungi, with 1500 currently described species. We also got a hands-on lesson in manipulating yeast to make kombucha and mead from Ken Litchfield of Merritt College in Oakland, California.
Ethnobotanist Kat Harrison of the non-profit Botanical Dimensions traced the introduction of entheogenic shrooms into Western culture and then compared techniques of use from traditional Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico where she’s conducted years of enthnobotanic research to our own initiatory attempts to incorporate sacred visions into a post-industrial American society unscientifically fearful of anything psychedelic. A panel discussion of hallucinogenic mushrooms as medicine emphasized the growing body of scientific knowledge proving their value, from relieving cluster headaches to providing life-changing experiences of balanced wholeness with the universe.
Professional jazz singer Ruthie Ristich of Boston showed a film and gave a talk that acquainted us with the legendary East Coast mushroom guru Sam Ristich, her father, who charmed and tutored legions of mushroom seekers, including our own resident mycologist Gary Lincoff. And Lincoff led a special Ophir foray up the Waterfall Canyon trail that culminated in a gourmet mushroom feast, prepared by amazing chef Lisa Dahl of Sedona’s Cucina Rustica, at Bob Kingsley’s spectacular OPUS Hut on the San Juan County side of Ophir Pass. In spite of 30 years residency in the region, it was my first time ever over the Ophir Pass jeep trail, made all the more thrilling by our driver’s announcement that he was running out of gas on the long climb up the San Miguel side. A friendly jeeper saved the day and gave us enough petrol to make it down safely.
Maya scholar John Major Jenkins explained to us the origins of the Mayan Calendar long count in Izapa, Mexico – how it was tied to startling astronomic observations of the Sun’s conjunction with the center of the Milky Way galaxy and how it was clearly perceived by the Maya as a time of transformation, not a Christian apocalypse. Myco-historian David Rose expounded on Mushrooms in Science Fiction, Daniel Winkler on Mushrooms in Tibet, and Fungi magazine editor/publisher Britt Bunyard on “Mycorrhizatopia – Fungi as the Puppet Masters of the Universe”.
Lecturers including a couple of teenagers – Devon Enke of La Veta on “Oil-eating Mushrooms” and Norwood’s Sklyer Hollinbeck sharing his paper on Myco-Remediation at the Missionary Ridge Fire near Durango. Maya Elson and her cohorts alerted us oldster fungophiles to a new developing group of Radical Mycologists who are marrying social activism to mycology and holding “convergences” around the country. The next Convergence is planned for Port Townsend, Washington, in October.
Of course, the high point of the festival was the annual parade
down Telluride’s ColoradoAvenue, led by the Amanitamobile. YouTube has videos. And the parade was bigger than ever this year, with Mason and Piper Cornwell of Grand Junction winning the Shroomfest Parade Costume Contest in the Kiddie division with their Alice and the White Rabbit costumes.
Attorney Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado sought support for Amendment 64, the Regulate-Cannabis-Like-Alcohol Constitutional Amendment that will be up for consideration in Colorado’s November election. It’s a measure that makes good scientific and social sense, and as a 4th term Green County Commissioner, I’m publicly a supporter along with ultra-liberal Dem. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and former ultra-conservative U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (now there’s an unusual conjunction)
Jo Norris of Arizona’s Rim Institute gave a special workshop on “Connecting to the Feminine in Shamanism”, and the festival ended with a panel discussion by Norris, Marie Luna, Teresa Frank and Annie Enke on the relationship of plant and fungal allies to world consciousness.
Last year, to honor outstanding individuals who’ve expanded our knowledge of mycology, Shroomfest initiated a Founders Award that was given to Dr. Emanuel and Joanne Salzman of Denver for their creation and nurturing of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Named for them, this year the “Salzman” was given to Linnea Gillman of Denver, a long-time member of the Colorado Mycological Society, the North American Mycological Association and Fungophile, Inc. – the non-profit umbrella under which the festival operated for its first 25 years
This August the festival added a new award in honor of Dr. Andrew Weil of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona — the medical doctor, author, lecturer and psychonaut who was a regular faculty member of the festival for several decades. The Telluride Institute felt that the exploration of the entheogenic properties of mushrooms and other plant and fungal allies, which has been such an essential part of Shroomfest, deserved its own prize. The first “Andy” went to Kat Harrison for advancing our knowledge and understanding, forwards and backwards, of entheogens — in all their goddess guises.
Planning has already begun for next year’s Shroomfest32, and a poster by Inkling Cruz Garcia celebrates the Perseid Meteor Shower, which will occur right around the time of the event, Aug. 15-18, 2013. <www.shroomfest.com>