Trio Brasileiro (pictured) is one of the headlining bands at the festival. Photo courtesy Wintergrass

Trio Brasileiro (pictured) is one of the headlining bands at the festival. Photo courtesy Wintergrass

‘It’s about community and family’: Wintergrass festival celebrates 10 years in Bellevue

The festival started in Tacoma almost 30 years ago.

When the first Wintergrass bluegrass music festival was hosted at the Tacoma Sheraton Hotel nearly 30 years ago, its co-founders didn’t know what it would grow to become. It was inspired by Louisville’s International Bluegrass Music Association conference as a one-day event — a smaller-scale celebration of the musical genre. But it proved such a hit with bluegrass lovers far and wide that by 1994, a nonprofit around it was formed.

Now, Wintergrass, which has now been annually held at Bellevue’s Hyatt Regency Hotel since 2010, has become one of the U.S.’s preeminent bluegrass festivals. It spans four days and comprises live performances, workshops, jam-session opportunities and music education. In 2015, it was nominated for a Grammy, for a Best Music Education Director award.

The theme for 2020 is Bluegrass Without Borders, which publicity director Wendy Tyner said is up to interpretation.

“Wintergrass has always been a cultural experience as opposed to just live performances and workshops,” Tyner said. “There’s a certain aspect and feeling with Wintergrass. It’s about community and family and a lot of discoveries. People come to Wintergrass and they have never heard of a certain band or know the artist, but they have trust… that when they buy tickets and not know the lineup, they know that they’re going to have a great experience.”

This year’s iteration spans Feb. 20-23 and encompasses the expected spread of performances and learning opportunities. Spotlighted artists include the Kruger Brothers, We Banjo 3, Appalachian Road Show, the Larry Keel Experience and Five Letter Word. More than 45 vendors will be spread throughout the hotel during the festival.

Tyner highlighted that Wintergrass isn’t just a nationally known event.

“This year, we have bands from Italy, Canada, Germany and Ireland,” she said. “It’s a great expression of bluegrass music.”

Tyner said that typically it takes about a year to organize the festival, and acquiring musicians to participate is done through a combination of outreach and artists reaching out to organizers. There are five full-time staff members, 25 volunteers that work year-round and then some 325 volunteers that work the four days of the festival annually. Attendees, according to Tyner, always voice their appreciation of the work.

Tyner said the move to the Hyatt Regency — which she describes as “family” — a decade ago was helpful, too. For the director, Wintergrass — particularly its educational components — is beneficial to the preservation of bluegrass culture and enthusiasm about the genre as a whole.

“If you go back east, bluegrass culture is very rich,” Tyner said. “The further west you get, there are fewer festivals and music education that focus on the bluegrass sound… People come every year, and every year they say this is the best Wintergrass they’ve ever attended. That’s just something they say every single year.”

For more information about this year’s event, go to

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Poster for the event. Courtesy Wintergrass

Poster for the event. Courtesy Wintergrass

More in Life

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

UW students create Spira app to gather COVID-19 data

The app was created to screen for respiratory diseases but the teen creators shifted their focus once the COVID-19 outbreak began.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Meet The Bored Baker of Bellevue

Youth keeps busy with blog during down time from school closures.

Savannah Lynn and Will Chadek in the Second Story Repertory of Redmond’s production of “The Fantasticks.” “The Fantasticks” had been performed three times by the organization until coronavirus concerns resulted in the cancellation of the remaining dates. Photo by Michael Brunk
How is the coronavirus affecting the arts?

Representatives from Eastside arts institutions discuss their experiences.

Bellevue School District (BSD) staffer Lori Schrader Hanson assisting food-service efforts Monday, March 16. Photo courtesy BSD
Bellevue students receiving community support

Many local organizations have reached out to the Bellevue School District to see what they can do.

Photo courtesy city of Bellevue
                                A recent Well-K.E.P.T. crew. Groups of 10 interns between 14 and 18 years old are typically supported by two supervisors.
Bellevue Parks discusses Well-K.E.P.T. program’s accomplishments

The youth-centric environmental program has been running in Bellevue since 1987.

Trio Brasileiro (pictured) is one of the headlining bands at the festival. Photo courtesy Wintergrass
‘It’s about community and family’: Wintergrass festival celebrates 10 years in Bellevue

The festival started in Tacoma almost 30 years ago.

KCLS: Much to celebrate from 2019 and in the year ahead

A column from the King County Library System.

Neighborhood Enhancement Program comes to Crossroads

A “kickoff” meeting was held on Jan. 22.

Centro Cultural Mexicano exhibit opens doors to discussions on immigration, border issues

“Border Doors” features art by students who have visited the United States-Mexico border.