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Steamboat Magazine

The Evolution of WinterWonderGrass

02/06/2020 09:36AM ● By Alesha Damerville

By Alesha Damerville

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Yampa Valley is only weeks away from the highly anticipated annual winter festival that fills the mountains with the messages of powerful, eclectic voices and the booming of varied bluegrass instruments. Locals and visitors alike rejoice at the return of WinterWonderGrass.

This marks the fourth year in a row that Steamboat has been able to host this epic event, taking place in mid-February in the Knoll Lot at Steamboat Resort. 

The WinterWonderGrass festival takes place in three states: Colorado, California and Vermont. Edwards and Avon both hosted the festival before it found its home in Steamboat. The idea for this eco-friendly festival began in State Bridge, Colorado. 

Musician and WinterWonderGrass organizer Scotty Stoughton was spending a lot of his time at State Bridge, playing music, booking bands and living in a tipi. He eventually became general manager of the venue, which led to him becoming a partner.

"That's where I really understood the value of community and building something that appeals to everyone," Stoughton says. "Everyone came, congregated, camped and spent time together. It was the most amazing thing."  

After the fire and loss of the venue, Stoughton realized there wasn't a place in the area for the bluegrass bands to play. A small parking lot behind a brewery in Edwards would the first home of WinterWonderGrass. "It was very positive, but we were bigger than that space," he says.

In the coming years, the festival expanded to Lake Tahoe. Stoughton felt huge support from the resort and the community there, and he knew Colorado could provide the same support, and more.

Stoughton had a friend on the city council in Avon, and decided to move the festival there. "It wasn't the right community for us. There were a lot of great people who supported the festival, but overall I didn't feel the type of love I felt in Tahoe,"  he says. Searching for that same magic, Stoughton moved WinterWonderGrass to Steamboat.

"I'm here to amplify community and do all the things we can to get things decentralized in this world of centralization, bottom-line and profitability,” Stoughton says. “The main reason we do what we do is to build community and to make people feel good. When they head home, we want them to continue feeling inspired. That's what I've been after for WinterWonderGrass, and also that East Coast feeling about connecting at the end of the day around the fire with the grill and some acoustic music. Kids playing, adults hanging."

Profit isn't the point of this festival. It's about doing things better for the community and culture at large, and Stoughton found that in Routt County. "We never look at last year's success as a defining moment. We did a good job; let's do better. We want to be the best at what we do,” he says. “It's also really fun highlighting this beautiful place."

Stoughton, a New Jersey native, is no stranger to mountain living. He spent a good part of the ‘80s in Vail Valley, and he and his family recently relocated to Steamboat Springs after living in Denver. "I realized I missed the mountains," he says. "When you leave something, you often find you miss it more than you thought you would." 

"It's been great being here. We have made ourselves available to the city to help create a kind of blueprint on how to create events properly in a community that's somewhat fragile. We care about the environment, we care about the downtown congestion, we care about the look and feel of everything that comes through here," Stoughton says. 

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