Wintergrass brings a little twang to Bellevue

Bob Phillips, president elect of the American String Teacher
Bob Phillips, president elect of the American String Teacher's Association, directs the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra during a rehearsal Saturday.
— image credit: Kevin Endejan/Reporter

As long as Zach Top can remember, he wanted to be a musician.

"Since I could talk, I wanted to get a guitar and I wanted to be like George Strait," said the 14-year-old from Pasco. "Then we found a lady who taught blue grass. It wasn't really like George Strait, but I liked it."

Top, along with roughly 6,000 people from 33 states and six countries — including Japan and Sweden — came to Bellevue over the weekend to display their passions for blue grass at the 19th annual Wintergrass Festival.

"We just love it, it's great," said Portland, Ore., resident Bobbie Page. "You walk around and you see everybody that you already known for many years and you meet new people all the time."

Page and her husband used to go the event all the time when it was held in Tacoma, even volunteering several times. This was their first trip to the festival since it moved to the Bellevue Hyatt three years ago.

"I think it's a great venue," she said. "I'm enjoying all the pickers and the jamming, and definitely enjoying the shows."

Wintergrass, which is one of the largest blue grass events in the country, features dozens of workshops ranging from intermediate clogging to beginner harmonica. A large group of performers also put on concerts over the four-day period, Feb. 23-26, including big names like Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and Tim O'Brien.

While there were ample activities in the event program, unscripted interactions appeared to draw just as much attention. Random people, many who met for the first time, collaborated with banjos, fiddles, violins and harmonicas in the hallways of the Hyatt for casual jam sessions.

"It's really nice that it's so social and I just love the vibe," said Top, who moments earlier was belting out a love song with a group of friends.

Wintergrass wrapped up Sunday at the Bellevue Hyatt with a performance by ever popular Wintergrass Youth Orchestra.


Bruce Molsky belts out tunes during the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra rehearsal Saturday.


Terry Foster, of Colville, belts out a tune during a jam session Saturday.


Zach Top, above right, plays the guitar and sings during a jam session Saturday at the Bellevue Hyatt.


A group of violons for sale at the Wintergrass Festival.


The Joe Craven Trio performs on the main stage at the Wintergrass Festival on Saturday.

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