30 Years of History
The Sheridan Arts Foundation invites you to be a part of one of the most meaningful and exciting festivals of the Telluride community, the annual Wild West Fest. We celebrated our landmark 30th annual Wild West Fest on June 4-10, 2023 with 34 youth from Boys and Girls Clubs of Mobile, AL, Wichita Falls, TX, Farmington, NM, Denver, CO and regional youth from the West End traveling to Telluride for a celebration of the past and future at no cost to them or their families.
In 1991, Sandra and Keith Carradine held a Wild West Roundup at Carsten’s Ranch with celebrity friends like Mel Gibson, Rodney Crowell and Brian Dennehy to raise the much-needed funds to save the historic Sheridan Opera House from demolition and establish the Sheridan Arts Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit that owns and operates the opera house. During the Roundup, the idea to share the beauty and culture of Telluride with youth from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America was born.
The Carradines and the Sheridan Arts Foundation officially kicked off the program with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver skiing with gold medalist Franz Klammer with the help of community member Mickey Salloway and his relationship with Telluride Ski and Golf.
In 1995, WWF moved to the fall when twenty-eight kids and seven counselors from Farmington, Denver and the Ute reservation participated. Youth worked in mentorships with Daryl Hannah (pictured above) in drama, Rodney Crowell in songwriting and professional rodeo cowboy Larry Mahan in horseback riding. The week included a cutting event with participation from Ralph Lauren’s ranch to raise awareness for the program.
The next few years included Daryl Hannah hosting the entire week, celebrity cutting events with Christie Brinkley, performances from the Supremes, and expanding the program to include 35 kids from various Boys and Girls Clubs of America including Atlanta. Other celebrities like Mac Davis, Rickie Lee Jones, Peter Bogdanovich, Franz Weber, pro golfer Peter Kostis and Dennis Weaver all donated their time in the late 1990s.
Kids participated in the beloved Main Street parade alongside the Riata Ranch Cowgirls when the program was moved to the Fourth of July. Featuring Kansas Carradine, the kids and Cowgirls demonstrated their show-stopping trick riding and roping skills. With corporate sponsorships including Coca-Cola (still a sponsor today) and Chevy Trucks, participants grew to as many as 50 kids and included Telluride locals.
In 1998, beloved father, friend and Wild West Fest supporter Chip Allen tragically passed away. The Sheridan Arts Foundation honored his devotion to Wild West Fest by officially naming the three-day skill-building program that pairs WWF youth with experts in their field the Chip Allen Mentorship Program, or CAMP.
Chip’s daughter Ann shares,
“Chip Allen was a man of character and integrity who always had a smile on his face. He was a wonderful father and inspiration to many young children and adults. He always believed in providing opportunities for kids from all backgrounds. We are honored that his legacy will continue with the Chip Allen mentorship program at the Sheridan Opera House.”
In 2003, Wild West Fest was moved to the first week of June making it easier to obtain the necessary lodging and services donated by local businesses. Other than a two-year hiatus during COVID, the SAF continues to bring kids from all over the country and the region for a week of empowering mentorship filled with A- list talent and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The SAF hopes to continue for another 30 years.
The Sheridan Arts Foundation ensures that kids attend at no cost to their families. The SAF has taken on the task of providing all lodging, meals and activities for the week, at a cost of approximately $45,000 annually. This substantial fundraising goal is achieved largely by generous contributions made by our local, regional and national patrons and granting foundations.
Wild West Fest has been supported in the past by grants from Colorado Creative Industries, The PeyBack Foundation, The Telluride Foundation, CCAASE and the Just for Kids Foundation. Each $1,500 raised covers the cost of welcoming one child to the Wild West Fest which does not account for the significant time spent by staff in planning and executing the week.