Located directly east of Seattle, Bellevue is a fast growing tourist destination featuring cultural attractions, shopping, and dining for every palate. Main Street or “Old Bellview” is a can’t miss stop for every visitor, here people will find brick sidewalks, a variety of top-tier restaurants, and an ample selection of spas and salons. If shopping is your game, then the Downtown area is for you. Travelers will encounter The Bellevue Collection, which houses a vast variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
The Wintergrass Music Festival has been highlighting new and established musicians from around the world for the last 25 years, and it will take place February 22-25 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Attendees will encounter a celebration of traditional and modern Bluegrass music, as well as artists performing Americana, Country, and more. In fact, more than 30 performers and groups will participate, with some coming from as far away as Europe. The event offers the perfect opportunity to meet new people from around the world and to share unique musical styles. Concerts will take place indoors at five venues in the hotel ranging from intimate 60-seat rooms to wide open 2,000-seat halls. Patrons in the age range of 4 to 20 years old can partake in a series of educational music programs, which introduce kids to bluegrass instruments at the basic level and navigating the music industry at the highest level. People of all ages looking to join in the fun will love participating in a variety of jam sessions that will take place throughout the hotel including hallways and elevators. We interviewed the event’s Publicity Director, Wendy Tyner, to learn more about this can’t miss bluegrass experience.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
WT: Wintergrass is celebrating its 25th year of highlighting emerging and award-winning artists from the region, nation, and world. The event showcases the music of traditional and modern bluegrass, along with Americana, Country, Gypsy Jazz and Celtic sounds. This year, bands from Sweden, Germany, and Canada will take the stage.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
WT: More than 12,000 people over the event's four days.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
WT: Wintergrass attracts young people, families, seniors, and people from the military.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
WT: Wintergrass is not just a place or an event. It’s a culture. The event brings together people from around the globe to listen to music, jam, and learn about the industry.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
WT: Live performances begin on Thursday at 5:45 pm and end Sunday at 5:00 pm. Bands are scheduled at least twice so everyone can see their favorite artist.
Performances continue through midnight. Jamming sessions take place anywhere folks want to play. All of the jams welcome anyone who would like to join them.
The Music Director recently received a Grammy for her innovative and progressive approach to teaching bluegrass music. The Pintgrass program engages kids from 4-6 years old introducing them to bluegrass instruments. The Youth Academy is for students 7-14 years old with beginning to intermediate skills (taught by Joe Craven). Students 14-17 years old who graduated from the Youth Academy join the Youth Academy Teacher Training Program, mentoring the younger students.
The Youth Orchestra consists of students from local middle school orchestra programs. Rhapsody Songsters is for young adults 16-20 years old who want to learn about the music business while integrating community, history, and food. Wintergrass’s newest program is the Student Fellowship, for adults who wish to pursue a lifelong career in music education. It’s a fun-filled experience for the students, and never a dull moment from the acclaimed instructor artists, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons.
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
WT: This year, Wintergrass welcomes Del and Dawg (Del McCoury and David Grisman) a performance that is unique the west coast.
RAL: Tell us about the atmosphere?
WT: Wintergrass is about providing quality music experiences and promoting community, integrity, and fun. The atmosphere is energetic. People wander from venue to venue visiting vendors, joining jam sessions, and more. There are a variety of options for everyone to enjoy.
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
WT: For those who want direct access to the festival, hotels within walking distance include The Hyatt Regency, the Marriott, the Westin, La Residence Inn and the Silver Cloud.
RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up for the event?
WT: Tickets are available online for one to four days. Children under 12 are free to enter, and seniors, families, and military personnel receive a discount. Wintergrass offers a variety of specials that are available for the next event. If a Wintergrass ticket is purchased after Feb 25, 2018, a Hyatt Regency Hotel room is booked for the following year. The Hyatt sold out within four days at the end of the 2017 festival.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
WT: Wintergrass is helping to broaden the cultural experiences for Bellevue as well as the Puget Sound area in the Pacific Northwest. It brings international and national Grammy award-winning artists to Bellevue. It’s accessible by public transportation and affordable to many families.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
WT: Wintergrass Music Festival uses its net income to expand youth education programs. The event now offers music education to youth and adults in eight programs, including the Youth Orchestra that works directly with the King County Middle Schools. These students perform at Wintergrass on Sunday, Feb 25 at 3:00 pm.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
WT: Those who attend return year after year making Wintergrass their annual vacation. They visit to see new bands that are off the grid, but no less innovative and talented. It’s a safe and affordable environment. Discounts are available for seniors, families, and people in the military. In a nutshell, people will hear 33 bands, in five venues over four days. It’s Magic.
For more information about the Wintergrass Music Festival, please visit the event website.