WinterWonderGrass settles into Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The fifth annual WinterWonderGrass festival took place Feb. 24-26 with bluegrass music filling the cold Rocky Mountain air, but for the first time, the backdrop for festivalgoers was Steamboat Ski Resort, not Beaver Creek.
With powder days giving way to the outdoor music festival, bluegrass fans — and the artists themselves — endured freezing temperatures to enjoy three days of entertainment, and they loved every second of it.
“I definitely want people to know in the Vail Valley how much we appreciate their support in developing this, and seeing so many of those faces up here was heartwarming,” said WinterWonderGrass founder Scotty Stoughton.
After starting out of Edwards for one year then moving to Nottingham Park in Avon for three years, WinterWonderGrass appears to have found its perfect home.
With a bigger space, more lodging within walking distance and direct access to the ski resort, WinterWonderGrass will be returning to Steamboat again next year, with the hopes of a long-term partnership.
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“It’s just a better fit for us for our vision of being incorporated into the mountain,” Stoughton said. “That’s something that’s really near and dear to my heart.”
In Avon, the action was separated from Beaver Creek whereas in Steamboat, the lift is steps from the music. And, new this year, the bluegrass music spilled onto the mountain, where daytime shows at remote decks and late-night shows atop the gondola kept the party going.
“Steamboat basically opened their arms and said they want us,” Stoughton said.
‘What is up with these fans?’
The Vail Valley had a strong presence at WinterWonderGrass this year, despite it being a two-hour drive up Highway 131 in snowy conditions. From locals in attendance to Weston’s tiny house setup steps from the main stage, the festival felt like home away from home for many.
“They’re just like, ‘What is up with these fans?’” Stoughton said of some Steamboat locals’ reactions. “They’re so positive. There’s no issues, no problems and everyone’s just so kind. We’ve cultivated an incredibly grateful, high-intentioned community of festivalgoers which I think is leading the charge beyond any other event I know of, and that’s because of the people.”
In its new location, WinterWonderGrass sold out three months in advance — something it never did in Avon, where it sold out usually the day of. About 5,000 people per day checked into the festival.
“The locals were just going off,” Stoughton said. “It was just incredible.”
As usual, the festival puts a focus on sustainability. There were no single-use plastic bottles on site, and nearly everything was compostable. Last year’s event saw an 89 percent diversion rate from the landfill, the bar they expect to meet again this year.
Part of that comes from festivalgoers, who have their pocket burritos packed and their Klean Kanteen WinterWonderGrass mugs from previous years ready to be refilled.
“They’ll come with their mugs,” said Jennifer Brazill, partner and marketing director of WinterWonderGrass. “There’s an ownership of the fans with the festival, which is what we want. It’s all about community.”
Another immediate difference between Avon’s location and Steamboat’s was the lack of mud at the main stage. Steamboat’s venue is on a parking lot — concrete that was getting covered in snow.
“Avon was great,” Stoughton said. “We had a great time there and we have so much gratitude for them allowing us to come in and take a chance on us. We appreciate everything.”
Tickets will be going on sale for next year’s WinterWonderGrass festival at Steamboat soon.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.