Long-awaited WWG brings people together for bluegrass

WinterWonderGrass took place April 1-3 at Palisades Tahoe in Olympic Valley, California.

WinterWonderGrass took place April 1-3 at Palisades Tahoe in Olympic Valley, California.

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WinterWonderGrass celebrated some of the best in bluegrass music April 1-3 under ideal weather conditions. Some had waited three years for the event to return since the last one in 2019. Many held onto their tickets during that time.
“I heard so many stories of people from all over the country holding onto their tickets for two years,” festival organizer Scotty Stoughton said. “The amount of gratitude I received is really heartwarming.”
The sold-out festival capped at 5,000 people takes place at Palisades Tahoe in the Olympic Valley in California for its sixth year after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. It featured up-and-coming artists as well as Grammy-winning musicians.

Scotty Stoughton


If there was one thing that people were looking forward to, it was the music. Savannah Hughes traveled from Idaho on a 10-mountain ski trip that she was ending with WWG. She said it was her second time seeing Billy Strings and that show was one of the most memorable. She said she enjoys the whole package of the festival that combines skiing and music.
“I love it,” she said. “I went to WWG in Steamboat earlier last month and that was epic too. I just love being able to ski while listening to bluegrass.”

Stoughton said the festival went smooth and he got an extremely positive reaction from everyone he talked to.
“I’m always looking for little things that we can do better and ways we can improve,” he said. “We got a lot of notes on that but overall, we’re really thrilled.”
He said they’ll do surveys of attendees and staff and get more concrete responses to how things went and to keep evolving.
“It’s important to never sit on the success of yesterday’s event,” Stoughton said. “That’s our philosophy and we’ll relish in the good times.”

WWG makes collaboration between artists very easy at the festival. Some musicians like Lindsay Lou (who celebrated her birthday Sunday at the festival) were constantly on stage. Almost every set of music had a guest appearance.
“It was really nice to see them and all of the artists to bring up their friends and share the stage and share the love,” Stoughton said. “It’s all about collaboration.”

WWG strives to be as eco-friendly as possible. They hand out free stainless-steel cups and shot glasses for beverages that become souvenirs. Stoughton said they must wait for a full report.
“The data doesn’t lie,” Stoughton said. “I think we did a good job.”
He said he’s proud of the team that consists of local volunteers and a group from Colorado.
“They’re the hardest working people on site,” he said. “I think they did a great job.”

There were plenty of families at the festival that brought their children. The Kids Zone was filled the entire weekend.
Jody Cilmi came from Truckee with his wife Jen and two children. They had an RV set up so they could stay overnight and camp out.
“It’s fun,” Jody said. “It’s a great family music festival.”
He and his wife said they spent plenty of time at the Kids Zone.
A memorable moment for them was when one of their children said they wanted to get in the front row for The Infamous Stringdusters.
“So, we started up there and stayed for like four songs up there and they were really awesome,” Jen said.
She said the kids could see the band perfectly.
“That was awesome,” she said. “That was one of my favorite moments.”

Apaulo McDaniel said he’s been coming to WWG for the past five events. He comes from Incline Village, so the short trip is a “staycation” for him.
“The whole vibe is amazing,” he said. “They do an amazing job with just the festival in general.”
He said the festival has been good since day one and they constantly bring in good artists. He enjoys skiing too. He said many friends come in from outside the area and its sort of a reunion.
“It’s nice to get everyone back together,” he said.
McDaniel said the weather has been unpredictable in the past, so he enjoyed the mild weather.
“I’ve seen it all — rain, sleet, snow,” he said. “But it’s kind of nice to have a warm chill.”

Torrin Daniels of the Kitchen Dwellers (banjo) plays with other WinterWonderGrass musicians on a tram at Palisades Tahoe on Sunday, April 3. 

Torrin Daniels of the Kitchen Dwellers was hanging out in the ski village after playing on the tram Sunday afternoon. He and members of Fruition, Lindsay Lou and Megan Letts joined members of Kitchen Dwellers for a scenic ride up the mountain. He said he was looking forward to a raging late-night set later that night.
The Kitchen Dwellers held their spot on the lineup from 2020. Daniels said it was easy to stay committed to the festival because of what WWG means to them.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “The folks who run WinterWonderGrass — Scotty Stoughton and Ariel and all these guys — are fantastic people, so we always appreciate it when they look out for us and other musicians. It means a lot to finally come back.”


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