Telluride: Hot Shot Photo Contest + Fourth of July

Telluride: Hot Shot Photo Contest + Fourth of July

The submission form for the 10th annual Telluride Hot Shot Photography contest is live all day on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Takes just a few minutes to fill it out. Entry is free and you stand to win a cash prize, plus customized stamps. Whether or not you submit, please check out the website and vote for your 2019 favorite. The deadline for submission is noon Friday, July 5, 2019.

Also this month, please support Hot Shot Photo Contest sponsor, the Ah Haa School for the Arts, by attending its annual auction on July 19. (Go here for all details and to purchase your ticket.)

And this year, the Grand Marshal of Telluride’s Fourth of July parade is Sarah Holbrooke, director, Pinhead Institute, which is hosting its annual fundraiser, “The Science of Cocktails,” on July 20, 6 – 9 p.m. Go here for details and to purchase your tickets to that event, which is happening at Transfer Warehouse in concert with Telluride Arts.

And the same weekend, July 20 & July 21, Telluride Arts hosts Telluride Art + Architecture, the ultimate home tour for connoisseurs. Get your ticket to that event here. You snooze, you lose. The event always sells out.

Every year for the past 10, the day after the street is rolled up and the horse poop repurposed to compost, a group of locals gather at the Formbys’ place, a beautiful penthouse overlooking Telluride’s Main Street, where they sit in judgment. Their mission and challenge: select the images that best capture the spirit of July 4th in San Miguel County.

This year, Natalie Bowers, representing GenX; Rachel Bowers of  the Telluride Ski Resort; Werner Catsman, old time local and President, Finbro Construction; Patty Denny of Telluride Truffle; Arline Dowling, Board of Trustees, Ah Haa; Telluride Town Manager Ross Herzog; and Major Sean Murphy are in the hot seat for Telluride’s annual Hot Shot Photo Contest, an event which now rhymes with the Town’s Fourth of July celebration.

“I remember how we worked the judging when we first started the contest,” explains Katrine Formby. “I printed out each and every submission in color so that all the judges could look at every photo as an 8 X 10. I am laughing about that now. What a waste of paper and colored ink. Now we minimize our environmental impact: all the judges come to the judging party with their laptops or iPads or smart phones so everyone can study the submissions online without us having to sacrifice a single tree.”

One of the event sponsors is Telluride’s Ah Haa School, which Daniel Tucker founded in 1991 based on the idea that everyone is creative. All it takes is the right place, the right time, and the right circumstances to bring out our inner Picasso – or Brassai.

The right place: San Miguel County.

The right time: All day on the Fourth of July 2019.

The right circumstances: A photo contest for locals and guests.

Along with floats, flyovers, a public BBQ, an outdoor Impressionist art show, after a decade (and counting), Katrine and Bill Formby’s Hot Shot Photo Contest has become a much-anticipated addition to Telluride’s Fourth of July celebration, a happening that is a tribute to all things Norman Rockwell – on steroids.

Event sponsors – Ah Haa, Telluride Ski Resort, Nugget Building, Telluride Volunteer Fire Department, and Telluride Inside… and Out invite everyone in town – visitors, amateur and professional photographers, kids – to give it your best shot.

The contest is all about building community one person, one image, at a time.

And the possibility of a $1,000 cash award.

There is no entry fee. Simply submit your photo online to at before noon on Friday, July 5. First prize is $1,000; second prize is $300; and third prize is $100. An additional 10 photos will be selected as Honorable Mentions, with the photographers receiving $50 each.

“Even if you don’t want to enter the contest, you can be a part of it by voting online for Audience Favorite,” says Judy Kohin, director, Ah Haa.

The Audience Favorite winner will have his or her photo printed on 100 official U.S. Postage Stamps.

The idea for the Hot Shot July 4th Photo Contest dates back to 2009, when the Formbys were chilling at Rancho La Puerta, Mexico. Katrine and Bill happened to be at the spa during “Photography Week,” when the resort held a daily one-hour session on the medium. Katrine participated and remembered the fun she had. She decided on the spot to pay it forward in Telluride.

“Every year we have hosted the Hot Shot Photo Contest we have received over 100 entries and given out over $10,000 in prize money,” adds Katrine. “If someone asked me for advice on how to break through all the submissions, I would suggest spending some time to come up with the perfect caption. Our judges consider the caption along with the image and a clever caption sometimes goes a long way in getting a photo to rise to the top.”

According to Katrine, before the judges deliberate she reminds them that each year’s contest is a brand new happening.

“It doesn’t matter if a photo with fireworks won one year. It is possible for a photo with fireworks to win this year too. In addition, it does not matter if someone won a cash prize in the past, he or she is still eligible for a cash prize in 2019. Again, each year’s contest stands on its own.”

And, since a picture is worth a thousand words – and to give you an idea what turned on the judges – here are a few examples of winners from Hot Shots past:

The Top Prize winner 2018 was Ellie Barker’s “Skirts & Stripes.”

Second place went to Matt Kroll for his “A Focused Fly-By.”

The Third Place winner was Tamara Ogorzaly for “The Supreme Court – Judicious Final Say – This is the Beauty of America.” Tamara won $100.

The Audience Choice Award in 2018 went to Nitin J. Sanket for his “Our’s and Nature’s Fireworks.

1st place, 2017: Telluride local and professional photographer, Melissa Plantz,”Celebrating Independence at 8750.”

2nd place: Dylan Kroes,”Happy Birthday America . . . Telluride Style.”

3rd place: Jake Niece, “Cemetery Fireworks.”

With all eyes on the prize, who will this year’s winners be? (Though we all win simply by showing up at the Parade.)

The Fourth of July, more:

4th of July banner

The original resolution calling for the Continental Congress to declare the United States free from British rule was introduced by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776. Three days later, a committee headed by Thomas Jefferson was appointed to prepare a document appropriate to the cause.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress on July 4, although the resolution that led to its writing had been approved two days earlier, prompting President James Adams to say:

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, fun, bells, bonfires and illumination from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” (From “John Adams” by David McCullough.)

Apart from slipping two days on the calendar to July 4, a ho-hum day back in Adams’ time, his vision morphed into tradition: the Fourth of July became a big birthday party our nation throws for itself every year.

In Telluride that tradition, which began in the 1880s, had gotten out of control some time in the early 1970s. Town cancelled the Fourth of July party until further notice. When the holiday was reinstated on the summer calendar a year or two later, the main event was a bbq and fireworks sponsored by the Fire Department. Period.

In late-1980s thanks to the efforts of Joyce Allred and Shari Flatt, the parade returned to its past glory. Now almost everyone in town participates. “If it weren’t for the tourists, there may be no spectators at all.”

On the Fourth of July, people tend to put red state/blue state issues aside and, per F. Scott Fitzgerald, “stand at moral attention,” saluting the Stars and Stripes as one nation. On that day, we honor the young men and women who put on uniforms, boarded trains and planes and promised their families they would return, knowing full well they might not be back at all.

Telluride’s spin on the Fourth includes the parade straight out of Norman Rockwell, a flyover, kids, dogs, horses, floats, wagons, bikes, bbq, wild-eyed hippies, men and women in uniform, and the crowd of cheerleaders. The Sheridan Arts Foundation hosts Telluride Plein Air, and there are happenings in Mountain Village. Thanks to the Telluride Fire Department, spectacular fireworks punctuate the celebration. And the Formbys host Telluride Hot Shot,

This year’s Grand Marshal is none other than Sarah Holbrooke of the Pinhead Institute:

“Pinhead has been strutting its stuff in Telluride’s Fourth of July parade for years, all tricked out in our lab coats and Einstein wigs to represent the wonders of science and technology. As most people know, our mission is to promote science education locally and globally. And this year, I am deeply honored to be leading the entire parade as the 2019 Grand Marshall. Also, a shameless plug: please support Pinhead by attending our annual Science of Cocktails event, this year at the Telluride Transfer Warehouse on July 20.”

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