The people who live here love the outdoors. They like it so much they're willing to risk cold temps in the name of bluegrass, brews and barbecue. It's these three B's that will hopefully bring the crowds to the first-ever WinterWonderGrass Festival, which takes place in Edwards this weekend. Some might be apprehensive about attending an outdoor music festival in the middle of February, but organizer Scotty Stoughton isn't too worried about the weather. After being involved with planning SnowBall, which was held last winter in Avon, Stoughton felt confident that a different type of outdoor festival could be successful here.
"I've been hearing from the community that they wanted a little bit more live events for the winter," Stoughton said. "(SnowBall) showed me that there are definitely people who like to come out and brave the elements."
'They can really shred on acoustic guitar'
WinterWonderGrass will combine a music, food and drink festival into one. Bluegrass tunes will be blasting, or "picking" to be more precise, continuously throughout the two-day event, with Head for the Hills and Greensky Bluegrass headlining Saturday night and Infamous Stringdusters headlining Sunday night. Although every band performing fits into the "bluegrass" category in some way, each one has a different take on the genre. Take Head for the Hills for instance, which has a classic acoustic bluegrass sound with the exception of one thing: no banjo.
"In a traditional bluegrass band, the banjo plays through everything," said guitarist Adam Kinghorn. "In our style we have a lot more space there (in the song) and we have different roles to fill that (space)."
Formed in Fort Collins in 2004 when they were in college, most of the members of Head for the Hills didn't grow up listening to bluegrass, but are now trying to spread bluegrass' popularity and introduce the genre to a younger crowd.
"(When I was younger) I was really into playing fast music, like punk rock and metal," Kinghorn said. "When you start listening to some of the acoustic bluegrass (players), you realize that they can really shred on acoustic guitar... There seems to be a correlation with bluegrass and being outside and I think people in Colorado really get that. The little bit of popularity that (bluegrass) is gaining has to do with that Colorado lifestyle."
The Colorado bluegrass connection
Other bands playing at the festival also see a link between Colorado and bluegrass. The Infamous Stringdusters are based out of North Carolina, but dobro guitarist Andy Hall recently relocated to Lyons because he loved the mountain lifestyle so much.
"(Colorado) is the land of milk and honey," Hall said. "Every activity that I'm into is all outside my door."
Hall and the rest of the Stringdusters played at the Vilar Center last winter and have only gained more fans and recognition since then.
"Since we were in Vail last, we saw a real change as far as show attendance and the quality of fans coming to see us," Hall said. "For the first time people know our songs and know our lyrics. The band and the fans have started to connect in a way that we haven't in the past. It's been really fun."
While Hall thinks having an outdoor bluegrass fest in the winter is "crazy," he and Kinghorn both think the chill in the air and possible snow will add something special to the concert experience.
"We played once (in the Rockies) outdoors where they had just gotten three feet of snow," Kinghorn said. "Those situations are unique and they might yield a more energetic performance and people remember that stuff."
Brews and hot food
In addition to the music, the festival will have beer tastings from 3 to 6 p.m. each day from nine different breweries. Hosted by Crazy Mountain, the brewery is making a "WinterWonderGrass" blond ale just for the event. Also on tap will be a special beer cocktail, which Kevin Selvy, owner of Crazy Mountain Brewery, said is the new craze in micro-brewing.
"It's a new trendy thing where people are mixing cocktails with beer," Selvy said. "(Beer cocktails) are dangerously addicting. But you really have to know what you're doing. It takes a real mixologist to do it right."
After the tasting ends and the music begins, people will have a chance to purchase their favorites.
"We're keeping the prices on the beer and wine and spirits pretty reasonable," Selvy said. "We don't want people paying 12 bucks for a beer."
Cold beer and cool tunes are essential, but let's not forget about the food. Moe's Original BBQ will provide "everything from barbecue tofu to pork chili to their smoked turkey sandwiches," Stoughton said.
Stoughton suggests not leaving the festival without trying Moe's chili, which will warm you up while you boogey down to the banjo and upright bass.
"What's better than hot chili on a snowy day watching bluegrass?" Stoughton said. "Even if you're not a bluegrass fan, it's something to see, some of these pickers are incredible. It's more about the good vibes, trying fresh brews, and warm barbecue."