Wintergrass….warming up in the winter with music and friends.

by Jessica Furui

February’s event was another great time. We wonder how it ever could not be a great time!? Across the pond from Seattle, the stark winter silhouette of Bellevue offers a respite from the doldrums of winters embrace. Almost like plum blossoms whispering a breath of spring, Wintergrass is a beautiful reminder that winter is almost over and camping festival is almost here.

This year we were happy to host a meet and greet/book signing with Barbara Martin Stephens, author of “Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler.” This incredible lady was Jimmy Martin’s common-law wife and mother to his children. In addition to that great feat, she was his booking agent and manager for a number of years. Oh, if the walls could talk! But we don’t need them to because she wrote an intimate memoir of her years with the self-proclaimed King of Bluegrass. Get your copy!

Barbara Martin Stephens, author of “Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler.”

Barbara Martin Stephens, author of “Don’t Give Your Heart To A Rambler.”

Our fabulous Portland ambassadors, Christine Weinmeister and Linda Levitt hosted a ladies jam in the Oregon Bluegrass Association suite. We had a lovely turnout for the jam and lots of people hanging out to observe, support and heckle. One of the most common observations about our jams is that they are well organized, open, welcoming and fun! I guess the mission is working!


Hotel festivals are an interesting type of festival. Especially this one probably because the hotel is so nice…Hyatt Regency…fancy pants! So the folks that you’re holed up with in the wee hours of the morning at camp, not having brushed teeth for 12-15 hours…well now your doing the same thing except the lighting is too bright! Random mirrors in hallways appear and all of a sudden you’re surprised by a face and realize it’s your own. Hello! 

I never tire of telling non-bluegrass people about the elevator jams. The look on their faces when I explain the premise: several people crammed inside a standard size elevator playing music together for sometimes hours at a time going up and down and up and down. I love it when you can hear the sounds getting louder and louder and the jam approaches. It’s especially hilarious when there’s a crowd of folks needing to use said elevator with an expression of both frustration and envy as they wait for another to come.


As a lover of breakfast, one of my favorite parts of hotel jams is the classic breakfast with way too much butter. Give me salt, give me coffee. Give me a Bloody Mary! And someone else can do the dishes. Which reminds me, these festivals can be more expensive than your regular camping festival, not including transportation costs. But when you take into account that you can spend a whole weekend inside playing music with your friends amongst tacky carpeting and random hallway mirrors at all hours of the day/night, getting room service (or not), watching and listening to world-class musicians, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

If you haven’t been to Wintergrass, I highly recommend you add it to your list of winter events. But be forwarned, the fest is so popular that the special room rates will sell out within a few days of them posting the availability. You must be vigilant! The early bird gets the bluegrass worm!! 


 Other great winter hotel jams:
The Great 48 put on by the California Bluegrass Association
Joe Val Festival put on by the Boston Bluegrass Union

 Also, not strictly bluegrass but amazing nonetheless: Cowboy Poetry Gathering