Bluegrass revival: WinterWonderGrass sells out of tickets with its return to Palisades Tahoe
The sounds of bluegrass will echo throughout Olympic Valley this weekend as WinterWonderGrass returns to Palisades Tahoe for the first time since 2019.
Featuring more than 20 bands jamming out through Sunday, the three-day event has completely sold out, said founder and organizer Scotty Stoughton, and is expected to bring in roughly 5,000 people per day to Palisades Tahoe.
“It’s incredibly special, humbling and inspiring,” said Stoughton on returning to the Tahoe area.
After being canceled in 2020 and 2021, WinterWonderGrass returns for its sixth iteration at Palisades Tahoe. For organizers of the festival, which is also held in Colorado, Vermont, and Utah, the stop in the area marks the second leg of a four-event tour. Steamboat Springs, Colorado, hosted the first WinterWonderGrass of the year.
Coming off restrictions from the pandemic, Stoughton said the atmosphere and crowd was unlike anything he’s ever experienced as an organizer and something he expects to be duplicated this weekend in Olympic Valley.
“What’s most incredible is the energy everyone had — our team, the bands, and the audience — it’s next level,” said Stoughton. “I’ve never felt that kind of energy from a crowd. To come back here and do it, I’m anticipating what it’s going to be like and I can’t wait.”
HUGE TURNOUT EXPECTED
Stoughton also said this will be one of the largest WinterWonderGrass festivals ever at Palisades Tahoe. When the event was canceled in 2020, those who bought tickets were given an option for a refund or to hang on to them for a future festival. The following year brought another canceled WinterWonderGrass, but Stoughton said very few refunds were issued as those who had tickets continued to hold on to them, leading to a limited amount being available when tickets went on sale last October.
Those few tickets were snapped up within a week, according to Stoughton, who added that most years the event sells out Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday.
“Without people holding onto their tickets, we wouldn’t have survived,” said Stoughton. “A lot of people here have been holding onto their tickets for a long time.”
For those hoping to catch some bluegrass this weekend but without tickets, festival organizers have set up Grass After Dark — which will be ages 21 and up — and will feature many of the performers from the festival at local venues like Alibi Ale Works in Truckee, Moe’s Original BBQ and Tahoe National Brewing Company in Tahoe City, and in the Olympic Village at Palisades Tahoe. Tickets for the shows can be found at winterwondergrass.com/tahoe.
While music, brews, and spring skiing will be top of mind this weekend, the festival also will help raise funds for Tahoe Food Hub. Bar proceeds will go to the local nonprofit that seeks to support small family farms by creating a regional marketplace and creating access to the local community to food that is being grown within 150 miles.
“The event is a celebration of musical talent, but also community. It is such a beloved event and the fact that proceeds from the event benefit a local nonprofit make it that much more special and unique,” said Susie Sutphin, founder of Tahoe Food Hub, in an email.
“Their support over the years, especially the earlier years when things were scrappy, made all the difference and helped us significantly lay the foundation for a local food system for North Lake Tahoe,” she added.
Funds raised from the festival go directly to Tahoe Food Hub’s community outreach work like its Giving Box program and Farmer Resiliency Fund. Proceeds also will go toward educational resources for local youngsters.
Additionally, a dollar for every ticket sold goes to various nonprofits. Festival organizers also team with the Shane McConkey Foundation as well, according to Stoughton.
It’ll be three years in the making once the music starts for the festival’s lineup of musicians. Those who bought tickets in 2020 can expect to see a familiar list of artists as each band and musician rolled over from that canceled event, to another nixed event in 2021, to finally taking the stage this weekend.
“It’s something no other festival in the world, to my knowledge, has pulled off,” said Stoughton on booking the same lineup three consecutive years. “It’s incredible and that’s going to add to the energy a lot more.”
Among those playing this weekend will be The Infamous Stringdusters, Twisted Pine, Kitchen Dwellers, Lindsay Lou, and Grammy award-winning Billy Strings.
“It’s been awesome to watch Billy Strings, the trajectory from playing small side stages in Tahoe in 2017 to one of the sub-headliners at Lollapalooza this year,” said Stoughton. “The guy’s playing at the Grammys on Sunday. To watch him rise and maintain humility and connection to the people is incredible.”
The California Honeydrops will close the show on Sunday night, “which is perfect,” said Stoughton.
Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com
For those hoping to catch some bluegrass this weekend but are without tickets, festival organizers have set up Grass After Dark — which will be ages 21 and up — and will feature many of the performers from the festival at local venues. Tickets for the shows can be found at winterwondergrass.com/tahoe.
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