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Tacoma Rock City

Category: Wintergrass

June
17th

Wintergrass director ponders “a way to keep some bluegrass in Tacoma”

I spoke with Wintergrass director Patrice O’Neill earlier today. And she requested that I post this letter responding to comments about the festival’s relationship with Hotel Murano. So here it is, bluegrass fans:

In 1993 a quartet of unlikely people got together at the Ruston Inn and hatched a plan to present a bluegrass festival in the dead of winter in the middle of downtown Tacoma. At the time, it was not safe to walk down 15th Ave. the History and Art Museums did not exist, the UW wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye and the Sheraton Hotel had a 3% occupancy rate at the end of February. There were also no other independently produced indoor bluegrass festivals anywhere. We made a phone call, did a little tour and promised that we could fill not only the hotel, but the streets of Tacoma with the sounds of music and joy. Were it not for the audacious and even playful attitude of the staff at the then Sheraton Hotel, Wintergrass would have been laughed right out of the building.

But sixteen years and many banjos later, we look back with nothing but the greatest affection, respect and love for the hotel that took a chance on us and the city that slowly allowed us to occupy a place in their heart.

As the story of this difficult decision has emerged many voices were added to the chorus shouting advice and casting aspersions. It is important to those of us who have worked to create and sustain Wintergrass, that our farewell to Tacoma not be viewed as a feud, but rather as what it has been – a painfully difficult, very emotional decision to choose between two excellent options for the future of our event.

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June
16th

Wintergrass is moving to Bellevue

Wintergrass is leaving Tacoma.

The Wintergrass board of directors’ voted to uproot the popular bluegrass festival and move to Hyatt Regency Bellevue in 2010 after a 16-year run in Tacoma, festival directors said today.

"I wish it was another way," Wintergrass director Patrice O’Neill said Tuesday afternoon, audibly choked up as she prepared to break the news to management at Hotel Murano, which has served as ground zero for the event.

"Ultimately, the decision had to be made on what was best for the long-term health of the festival. And that was a tough, tough call," she said.

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June
12th

Hotel Murano owners respond to Wintergrass controversy

Cheryl Tucker just posted a response to our recent Wintergrass editorial from Hotel Murano’s Portland ownership over on the Inside the Editorial Page blog. I thought a few of you might be interested in reading excerpts here, too. I was most interested in what Provenance Hotels president Howard Jacobs wrote in the last paragraph of the letter:




Let’s focus on the real issue. The Wintergrass Festival desires the lowest possible hotel rates and is shopping the competition in Bellevue and other cities to force us to hold their festival at the

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June
11th

Wintergrass director optimistic about odds of staying in Tacoma

Wintergrass won’t make an announcement about whether the popular bluegrass festival is staying in Tacoma or moving to Bellevue until tomorrow at the soonest, according to director Patrice O’Neill.


The City of Tacoma, Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau and other entities offered concessions to woo Wintergrass back to Tacoma earlier this week. But the final hitch appears to be the festival’s contract with Hotel Murano, where the Wintergrass office is located and a bulk of musical activity takes place in February.


Wintergrass organizers gave Hotel Murano until 5 p.m. today to revise the contract extension

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June
10th

Wintergrass future hinges on Hotel Murano contract, says festival director

South Sound bluegrass fans anxiously await news about whether Wintergrass will remain in Tacoma or move to Bellevue in 2010. (Click here to read the last story I wrote on the issue if you’re not up to speed.) And the ball is now officially in Hotel Murano’s court, according to an e-mail festival director Patrice O’Neill sent earlier tonight.


O’Neill and co-director Stephen Ruffo conducted a conference call with Wintergrass board members today. They determined that Wintergrass’ fate rested on contract negotiations with Hotel Murano, she said.


Excerpts from O’Neill’s e-mail:



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June
5th

Monday meeting aimed at keeping Wintergrass in Tacoma

A closed door meeting has been set for Monday aimed at keeping Tacoma’s Wintergrass festival from moving to Bellevue. The meeting is expected to focus on rising hotel rates, parking and other issues that have organizers of the popular bluegrass festival eying a move to Hyatt Regency Bellevue in 2010.


"The city wants to have an opportunity to respond to the offer that they’ve been presented by the Hyatt," said Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride, who called the meeting. "So we’re doing everything in our power to come up with a package that will entice them

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June
3rd

Could Tacoma lose Wintergrass?

In case you missed the Wintergrass story I wrote with fellow staffer Ian Demsky for today’s paper, festival organizers are considering moving to Bellevue for 2010. Click here to get the skinny.


Wintergrass co-director Patrice O’Neill followed up with an e-mailed response to this line from the story: City Manager Eric Anderson told the Council members at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting that Tacoma was fighting hard to keep festival and had offered organizers "a small sum of money" to stay.”


O’Neill writes, “Just so you know, we have not ever spoken to Eric

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Feb.
22nd

So what’s a Bee Eater, anyway?

Despite a couple of sound problems, was that Bee Eaters performances at the Hotel Murano ballroom with Darol Anger and Paul from Big Trio amazing or what? With some Beatles done bluegrass style to boot. FYI, I learned that a bee eater is apparently an African bird, in contrast to the funnier image you may have had of some knucklehead shoving bees in his mouth. Hence the bird on the cover of the Boston group’s self-titled debut album.


Make sure you go back and check out the interview clip from the other day if

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Feb.
21st

Darrell Scott in praise of Urban Grace Church

Darrell Scott is a great interview, with answers as thoughtful and engaging as some of his lyrics. And since I had only a small space to work with for my story on Wintergrass in today’s paper, I thought I’d post a few clips from out conversation online, including this one with Darrell talking about the electric vibe that comes with playing Urban Grace Church.


After a long day yesterday, I’m getting a late start at the festival today. But Darrell’s comments give me more incentive to get there in time for Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso,

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Feb.
20th

Wintergrass bootlegs (The Bee Eaters)

Alright, here’s where I give you two compelling reasons to go see the Boston-based Bee Eaters today at Wintergrass, namely these breathtaking tracks the quartet played for a few lucky folks behind the scenes at Hotel Murano this afternoon.


The Bee Eaters play “The Tree Climber”


The Bee Eaters play “Stoneground”


After you give those two killer cuts a listen, you’ll probably wonder about the album they came from (which with Darol Anger, by the way), their influences, how they met and all that good

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