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An Inside Look

Words by: Ariel Rosemberg

Mental, physical, and emotional evolution. No one, certainly not myself, would’ve wagered those as the outcomes to the onset of the pandemic back in March. 

We felt a slight nudge from the novel coronavirus heading into the February 2020 iteration of WinterWonderGrass in Steamboat. The beloved metal cups, that our fans so dearly hold on to as memorabilia from weekends of music, brews and mountains, were held up off the coast of California. “What does it mean?” “What do we tell our fans?” “Should we be afraid?” “HOW do we tell our fans?” Cups. These cups are a big deal and (I know from physically seeing it that) fans line their cabinets with them. “Coronavirus? What?” We were hellbent on getting those cups to Steamboat, and by the grace of a combination of collaboration, communication and best-in-class operational design, they were delivered to the Knoll Lot moments before Greensky Bluegrass’ headlining set on Saturday night. Fans rejoiced! The cups!

We’re now over seven months removed from the cup debacle turned success store. Because of the impact COVID has had, people in our, and sister industries have lost jobs, tourism is down, people are wary about shaking the hand of a neighbor. And masks in public, what? There are spikes in depression, alcohol and drug use, domestic and civil unrest continue to peak.

So, what do we do?

We have the choice to make as a community to evolve into the mental, physical and emotional beings that we have the potential to be as humans. In the mainstream world, we keep hearing of people pivoting. But I ask – Why settle for a pivot when you can expand? A pivot insinuates that you’re moving from point A to point B with no clear path for going back. Pivot and expansion are antonymous, almost in its truest sense of the word. The intention isn’t to strive for perfection either. For me, an expansion is taking the core and allowing it to grow, it’s a riff on a comfortable note, it’s taking a risk in a time where people are finding every possible outlet for mitigation.

RiverWonderGrass is an example. No music? No way! No experience? No way! No community? No way! These are all the bread and butter for our festival’s microculture. So as a team, we looked at our most readily available resources, and we expanded. We expanded into a full-blown soup to nuts experience company, where when we do settle back into “normal,” our community will have the option to literally ride an anatomical wave as the cloud give way to the ice and snow that WinterWonderGrassers thrive on to the melt that fills the canyon walls of Dinosaur National Monument, the location of our RiverWonderGrass Expeditions. 

I personally have no doubt that our industry will bounce back. It’s far too rich in history and culture to settle for a loss this tragic. There will be the inevitable changes in how day-to-day business is conducted, how tours are routed, how festivals are ticketed and in how people interact on the floor. But, at the end of the day, much like the triumphant appearance of the cups in Steamboat, we will deliver. Our community will once again rejoice. Stage lights will go down. And your favorite band will walk on stage. Until then, let’s be sure to take care of one another, and more importantly, ourselves. There’s far too much at stake for us to disregard.