WinterWonderGrass marks stage’s debut
Event: Winter Wonder Grass.
Location: Nottingham Park, Avon.
What’s new? Bigger acts and a new, $3.8 million stage
Tickets: $149 for a three-day ticket
More info: Go to www.winterwondergrass.com
AVON — The Sam Bush Band, Leftover Salmon and the Infamous Stringdusters may be the headline acts of this weekend’s WinterWonderGrass Festival in Avon, but the town’s new stage will play a big supporting role.
The stage had its public debut of sorts during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but the facility’s first big workout is this weekend. About 3,500 ticket-buying patrons per day will attend WinterWonderGrass, and the stage will be busy both day and night.
Event promoter Scott Stoughton is well aware of the significance of this festival. He’s spent the better part of two decades either playing on stages at the park or promoting events there. The new stage, he said is a “game changer” for the park — like a first kiss or your first color TV — those of a certain age remember the black-and-white version. Stoughton said the stage will enhance the experience of live music in Nottingham Park.
“It’s really world-class; it’s gorgeous,” Stoughton said.
TWEAKING THE PLAN
Getting the stage right took a lot of time and thought.
Avon Town Council member Jake Wolf is a professional musician. Just after being elected in 2012, then-council member Dave Dantas showed Wolf a preliminary plan for a park stage, dating from 2007. It was all wrong.
“It was facing north,” Wolf said of the first plan.
That would have subjected residents of the apartments and condos on the north side of the park to the full force of whatever music was being performed.
The current stage faces east. That means sound will travel the length, not width, of the park. The nearest neighbors are a fire station and the town’s library and recreation center.
The west-to-east orientation, the slope of the park and the fact that the stage is about 7 feet above ground level mean there are good views of the performers from just about anywhere in the park.
The stage orientation also keeps the sun out of the eyes of performers. And, Wolf said, performers have a view of both Beaver Creek and Vail’s Game Creek Bowl.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wolf said.
BRING ON THE EVENTS
The other problem with the 2007 plan was the size of the stage. Wolf said that initial plan might have accommodated a school group or small ensembles, but nothing bigger. The new stage has room for groups as big as a 60-piece orchestra. There’s also a well-appointed dressing room area, and Wolf said a side benefit is a warm spot backstage for musicians to ensure their instruments are in tune before facing an audience.
There’s more room in the back, too.
Avon Mayor Jennie Fancher said a deck off the west side of the stage, between the stage and the lake, is a good spot for weddings or other small-group events.
Those smaller private and public events will fill in times between the six or seven “signature” events the town is planning for the park, Fancher said.
The town’s Salute to the USA in July is well established. WinterWonderGrass may become another of those big park parties. Flavors of Colorado, a summer event, is set for a second run this year, and Cielo Lindo, a Latino music and heritage festival, will have its debut in September.
But nothing about the current stage was easy. Wolf said he spent nearly two years on a committee that designed the stage. Then, late in summer of 2014, came a serious blow to the project, when the original cost estimate of $1.9 million ballooned to $3.8 million.
“We learned that steel is really expensive right now,” Fancher said.
With construction begun and the Championships and WinterWonderGrass looming, the Town Council approved the extra cost.
Fancher said she hopes that as successful events come to the park, people view the stage as an asset.
Wolf is more optimistic, believing that the stage will become a valuable cornerstone for both events and civic life in town. He continues to believe that big promoters including AEG and Live Nation will see the venue as somewhere they would like to book acts.
“We want something for everybody on that stage,” Wolf said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.