January is the time of year for Bluegrass Road Trippers to rest up and kick back in front of a fire, rereading a worn copy of “Still Inside”, eating a bowl of chili thinking about all the great times you’ve had the previous year at the festivals you attended, right? Wrong! January is the time for planning next year’s road trips and hitting the road to the Winter Village Bluegrass Festival in Ithaca, NY.
What a gem in the middle of winter. A time and a place where the stars align and a great time making great memories for years, lie ahead. The sky is clear and the stars shine in a large sky on the last weekend of January. Rick Manning, the man who started Winter Village Bluegrass Festival 6 years ago (wintervillagebluegrass.org), and his wife, Sally host a fun filled, laid back festival, perfect for the winter road tripper. It’s held at the La Tourelle Resort in the hills overlooking Ithaca. La Tourelle’s host, Scott Wiggins and his wonderful staff, provide the perfect setting for a winter festival more civilized than the summer camp-outs, of tents, the back of pickups, rehabbed busses (except the Anne Marie) and on the ground under the stars, and rain. Let’s not forget the trips to the Port-A-Pottys.
La Tourelle (www.latourelle.com) has all the comforts that you would expect from a world class resort and spa. It boasts, running water, massage, steam, great food and a bar with many local and domestic wines. It also offers trails to hike, snowshoe or cross country ski on. It’s over 70 acres in all. Plus, there are jams in every nook and cranny. As in years past, where else can you sit in the lounge and have a glass of wine with Claire Lynch, a beer with Brittany Haas, Joe Walsh, Darrel Anger, or simply listen to Molly Tuttle and John Mailander play in the lounge in front of a raging fire in the beautiful stone laid fireplace. The performers stay right there too. A civilized bluegrass festival in upstate NY. What a concept!
Most of the performances Friday are right down stairs in an intimate setting where the artists alternate playing and watching. Beyond the aud is the spa. Upstairs is the bar and lounge, a restaurant, rooms and a nook where there is always a fresh cup of coffee waiting to be had. On the third floor are more rooms. Connecting them all is an elevator. There is a section of rooms designated a quiet zone, but I have no idea where that is. They keep it quiet. Speaking of rooms, they are large and airy with a great view of the surrounding countryside. Upstate New York is a beautiful place no matter what time of year.
On Saturday, the musicians split up, do-se-do and play at La Tourelle, and downtown at the Moosewood and Colyivare, for pre-main concert dinner & music. The main event this year is at the Hangar Theatre which seats about 350 (www.hangartheatre.org). The last 2 years the main concert, open to all, was at The State but theÜber people of Ithaca never showed up. They’re loss. Following the concert all the festival attendees come back to La Tourelle for more fun and music until the cows come home. Then it’s time for milking and following that, there is gospel music till noon. On Sunday afternoon at the festival, it’s time to get the emails of all your new friends, grab some souvenirs, pack up and head home. I live about 2 hours east of Ithaca, and usually listen to some of the new CD’s I bought from the artists during the weekend.
Oh, one more thing. The bands this year are Front Country, the Lonely Heartstring Band, the Molly Tuttle Band, Darol Anger and Amy Phelps, host band, Paris Texas featuring Bobby Henrie and others to be announced. I will not be disappointed, as I have seen all but Front Country before at different places over the years.
So, put down the book, finish the chili and head to the Winter Village Bluegrass Festival, January 29-31, 2015, for a great time with people that love to play, listen to and hang out with Bluegrass Music. Blue jeans, flannel shirts and cowboy boots and hats are the norm.
To obtain tickets for the festival go to http://wintervillagebluegrass.org/winter-village-bluegrass-festival-tickets. For reservations for La Tourelle, go to latourelle.com. There are other places to stay in the area, tho not nearly as fun.
And remember, hit the road, and “Party with Cal”.
Cal Country, roadtripper
Next month camping equipment for the Road Tripper.