When Scotty St0ughton was growing up, driving every weekend from his home in New Jersey to ski Bromley, and ski racing around the state, he had no idea how Vermont would shape his life.
“It’s basically influenced whom I’ve become,” says the Denver-based music promoter, SUP tour operator and musician. In his twenties, Stoughton moved to Colorado. He started a band, Bonfire Dub, and started the SUP organization, Stand Up Paddle Colorado, as well as Camp Out for a Cause.
One day, he and some friends approached a brewery in Edwards to see if they could host a bluegrass concert in their parking lot. They expected to 700 to show up. They drew a crowd of 1,400. After moving the venue around for a few years, in 2013, they launched the first official WinterWondergrass in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “And that’s sort of how WinterWondergrass got started,” he says.
This December 14-16, Stoughton and his team of more than 100 others are bringing it back home to Vermont. WinterWondergrass’s concerts in California’s Lake Tahoe have drawn up to 15,000 over three days. The concert also takes place in Steamboat Springs and now it’s coming to Stratton.
“We have 20 bands lined up and are expecting about 3,000 people a day over three days,” says Stoughton. “We’ll be building all these stages, bringing in heaters and having a bunch of fun. It’s really about building a community and breaking down those barriers between performers and fans.”
A few things make WinterWondergrass different from other festivals. First, it’s outdoors and in the winter. “We’ve had pop-up tents all over and probably spend about $30,000 on outdoor heaters.” Second, it’s not rock but acoustic bluegrass. “It has a really organic, jam-session feel,” says Stoughton. “We build our sets out of barnboard and wine barrels, the bands are pretty loose and a lot of them love to hang out with the crowds – be it at the bars after or on the ski slopes.
Among the bands in this December’s line-up are Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters and Keller & The Keels. Billy Strings, Fruition, Jeff Austin Band, The Larry Keel Experience, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Lindsay Lou. “Billy Strings is on fire,” says Staughton. “And the guys in the Infamous Stringdusters are just fun and they love to ski so you’ll see them on the hill.”
For Stoughton, it’s a chance to get back to his roots. “There’s something really special and different about Vermont. It hit me hard when I cam back here. It’s the roots.” And roots he found, on one of his trips back to Vermont he connected with an old friend who lives in Londonderry and they’re now engaged. “She’s moving West but I guess we’ll be spending more time here,” he says.
Tickets to WinterWondergrass start at $149 for the three days and include all music, craft brew and cider sampling and more — with an option of a $100 two-out-of-three day Stratton lift ticket add on. Tickets are on sale at winterwondergrass.com