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.