Discovering the wow of Wintergrass – Ann Oxrieder
March 4, 2013 · Updated 9:15 AM
Ever heard of “Pickled Okra," "Polecat," or The Seldom Scene”? I hadn’t either until our neighbors offered us their Saturday tickets to this year’s annual Wintergrass, a Bluegrass and Acoustic Music Festival held each year in Bellevue.
We knew if we didn’t like the music it would be an easy walk to return home. We did, but only after immersing ourselves in music for one entire afternoon and evening.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the bluegrass festival. I hoped we’d hear instruments besides banjos and fiddles, as they weren’t my favorites.
It turns out I had a lot to learn about bluegrass music, and spending 10 hours submerged in it was the best teacher. Yes, banjos and fiddles abounded, as did guitars, double basses, dobros, and mandolins. Some played them with a rock ‘n’ roll accent, others added a jazz touch, and some played country style. No matter how they played, all the musicians we heard played well. Exceptionally well.
I also discovered that bluegrass musicians, professionals or not, don’t all have southern accents and they are not all male. However, they do walk around with one or two instrument cases on their backs and one in each hand.
As enjoyable as the scheduled entertainment were the informal groups of musicians that popped up in every alcove of the hotel’s conference center. Graybeards, adults, teens and children, sometimes segregated by age, but often not, came together to share a common passion for the music. The rest of us delighted in hearing a dozen free concerts between the formal events.
Thanks to the City of Bellevue Arts Program for helping sponsor this event. While the rain pounded outside Saturday, 3,500 people stayed warm indoors strumming, fiddling or just tapping their toes to the music.
Ann Oxrieder has lived in Bellevue for 35 years. She retired after 25 years as an administrator in the Bellevue School District and now blogs about retirement at http://stillalife.wordpress.com/.