State Bridge’s second coming
BOND – This weekend marks the resurrection of State Bridge Lodge, and for the core group of individuals that have labored the last three years to make it rise from the ashes, it is a deeply spiritual experience.”What we have here is the essence of what Colorado is,” said Matt McRae, State Bridge’s director of operations, who handled the design and construction of the new venue. “It’s on the massive Colorado River, kind of in the middle of nowhere. It has always been a beautiful, amazing place with music, food and friends. Then of course, I met my wife here.”The “here” that McRae speaks of now includes a grassy, 500-person capacity amphitheater, a store, bar, restaurant (operated by Paddy’s owners Robb and Susan Swimm), cabins, yurts, teepees and camping – enough lodging to house 100 visitors. Collaborating with Gore Range Expeditions, State Bridge will now run rafting and paddle boarding expeditions. The vision is to make the venue a year-round retreat, hosting weddings and family reunions and operating as a wide-reaching family adventure center with everything from yoga to Jeep tours. “It’s been a labor of love. It’s a dream come true to be a part of this,” said Audrey McRae, who, with 20 years of real estate and property management experience in the valley, is now State Bridge’s director of lodging. “I hope the county and everyone who loves State Bridge sees that we’re trying to honor the past. I started coming out here in ’92. I met my husband on the deck right in front of the Tiki bar. I went home that day and told my sister I met the man I was going to marry. Most of my good friends … I also met them here.”State BridgeState Bridge became a popular, off-the-beaten path venue for live music in the 1980s. Scott Stoughton got involved in 1994 and by the time he became a shareholder in 2001, he was booking large-scale acts like Leftover Salmon and the Dixie Chicks. “I fell in love with the place right away,” Stoughton said. “I came from Jersey. I had never camped before. I saw Zuba at State Bridge and just the atmosphere, the energy, the spirit of the place … I was like, ‘I have arrived.’ I put up a teepee and stayed here.”Stoughton, who also operates Samana Lounge in Vail and plays in Bonfire Dub – one of many bands to play at this weekend’s Campout for the Cause “soft opening” at State Bridge – is now in charge of events at State Bridge. “My mom’s got these souvenirs of art I made as a kid. When I was 6 years old, I drew a picture on a plate of a huge river with a bridge over it and a teepee. I drew myself in the picture playing a drum,” Stoughton said. “This was something I was always meant to do.”Of course, Stoughton, the McRaes and a whole slew of other long-time State Bridge regulars, were devastated when the place burned to the ground in 2007. The ATM had apparently been broken into and then ignited, turning the venue to ash. Nobody was ever caught or charged for the crime. Long-time music fan Douglas Moog bought a house in Belly Ache in 2009 and soon discovered that State Bridge was up for sale. He met the McRaes and Stoughton and formulated a plan.”I had heard of State Bridge Lodge as a great venue when Donna the Buffalo played there in 2001 and 2003,” Moog said. “When it came back on the market, I researched it, made an offer, and found myself owner. It happened that my new friends had deep personal connections to State Bridge, and the right dedication and mix of expertise to bring it back. It’s rather astounding how that happened.The McRaes, who lived in yurt No. 7 during State Bridge’s previous life, now live in cabins No. 5 and 6. “The energy and spirit involved in putting every stone in place, it’s actually been really emotional,” Matt McRae said. “Now we can just open the doors. It feels amazing.”
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.