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July 18, 2013
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Avon planning another winter music fest

AVON ­— The promoter is the same, but that’s one of the few things that won’t be changing when Avon takes over the winter music festival WinterWonderGrass.

The acoustic bluegrass and craft brew festival’s promoter, Scotty Stoughton, said the event, which will take place at Nottingham Park in February, will attract an older and less rowdy crowd than SnowBall, the last festival he brought to the venue.

On Tuesday evening, in the first Avon Town Council meeting to hear a speech via Skype, Stoughton laid out the reasons why WinterWonderGrass is a good fit for Nottingham Park and why the town should support the event with its venue, resources and money.

“I think the Nottingham Lake site is a wonderful site that we can develop into a premier mountain music and beer festival site,” he said. “This type of music brings a lot of similar-minded type of people out. My experience has been very positive as far as safety, police involvement, fights and drug distribution — It’s just not that crowd ... they come with a higher level of respect, they come with a higher income level, and they really appreciate these types of events.”

The council agreed, unanimously supporting Stoughton’s proposal and kicking in $50,000 in seed money along with another $25,000 of in-kind donations.

Already a success

The WinterWonderGrass festival started last winter in Edwards, attracting popular roots music bands like the Infamous Stringdusters and Greensky Bluegrass and selling out the 1,500 capacity event.

“For a new event to come into the market and sell out in year one is obviously a pretty impressive feat, and it wasn’t by any means me being a great event producer; it was the fact that we brought the right ingredients together,” Stoughton said. “The idea was to bring together things that I feel really exemplified the Colorado lifestyle and things that people were excited about.”

Put simply, that’s craft beer and bluegrass music. Stoughton said Avon’s support will help bring more popular versions of both.

His plan is for the second year of WinterWonderGrass to include two large beer halls and more than 20 bands on three stages.

“The two large beer halls would be on the north and south sides of Nottingham field and in the center would be a courtyard,” Stoughton said. “The backdrop would be the lake and the mountains to the west with a main stage.”

The festival headliners would perform on the main stage and the side tents would have smaller stages with ten Colorado brewers in each.

“That’s what we did in Edwards. It was wonderful —every time there was a set change on the main stage folks would wander into the tent, they’d get warmed up, they’d see a great picking session by some local artists and some national artists sitting in,” Stoughton said. “I envision another side stage, we would potentially use for brewer talks and story teller-type things with some of the artists.”

Staunch support

Avon’s town council was so solidly in support of Stoughton’s pitch that the conversation didn’t focus much on whether or not the town approve supporting the event, but how many people the event could host.

Stoughton said his goal was to start at 3,000 the first year in Avon and grow to 5,000 by year two or three. The council pushed for more, and Stoughton agreed to cap it at 4,000 people.

Feb. 21-13 was settled upon for the date, with a tentative plan to have the shows go until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

“I feel this weekend works great. A lot of the research we’ve done on these dates shows it’s a little bit of a soft time for hotels, that pause after the big storm of the President’s weekend,” said Stoughton. “This gives us an opportunity to fill those hotel rooms, not only Friday and Saturday but also Sunday.”

Jake Wolf, a member of the council who was elected last November, said bringing events like this one to Avon is his top priority as a representative.

“That’s the platform I ran on, so obviously I’m thrilled to see my colleagues agree with me here,” he said. “This is going to be a great event for the town of Avon.”

The public in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting consisted of both residents and business owners, with most speaking also agreeing with Wolf and his colleagues.

Avon restauranteur Tom Beaver, who owns Montana’s in the Benchmark Shopping Center, said with no more SnowBall in Avon, the town needs WinterWonderGrass.

“I think that it’s necessary to pursue things like this to help businesses in this town,” he said. “SnowBall appealed to folks in their early 20s, and I think this appeals to a broader range of people.”

Wolf said the turnout was the largest he’s seen at a council meeting since he’s been in office.

“The buzz is already starting,” he said.

Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or jlaconte@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 19, 2013 08:45AM Published Jul 19, 2013 08:47AM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.