Crested Butte festival honors harvest, heritage, storytelling

Crested Butte Vinotok Festival

Crested Butte festival honors harvest, heritage, storytelling

Joy Harper
The Gazette

Each year, Crested Butte celebrates its European heritage by reviving a 1,000-year-old Slavic tradition during its Vinotok Festival, Sept. 13-18. Named for a Slavic word meaning “fall wine festival” or “wine tasting,” the Vinotok tradition dates to the Middle Ages, when it was a lusty harvest celebration coinciding with the autumn equinox, a time of balance between day and night.

It’s a time of village feasting, of forgetting the woes of yesterday and honoring traditional Eastern European roots.

The town has turned Vinotok into a folk festival, with a colorful array of medieval characters, a street theater performance, storytelling, Liar’s Night, a community potluck and music.

It emphasizes storytelling traditions dating to immigrant miners who first populated the town. Storytelling concerts will be held throughout the week.

But unlike most storytelling festivals, Vinotok does not include professional storytellers from outside the community.

“This is the only fully local storytellers’ event in the country. It is not a showcase for entertainers,” says Marcie Telander, a Crested Butte resident and “Godmother” of the event.

“The people of Crested Butte are not tellers of legend — there’s overwhelming humility and an honor for truth. Throughout history, the tales of the old ways have given meaning to people’s lives. Narrative is the perfect mirror of feeling,” Telander says.

Besides daily storytelling workshops and concerts, the festival includes wine tastings, a beer fest, parades, a Slavic-style pig roast, and dancing in the streets. It culminates Sept. 18 with an earthy autumn equinox celebration. Locals dress up as characters from ancient Vinotok celebrations and lead a procession to a roaring bonfire.

The pregnant Harvest Earth Mother and her lusty consort, the Green Man, lead a procession of revelers and merrymakers — a regalia of dancing lasses and jesters — to the ceremonial bonfire at the festival’s end.

The town’s magistrate summarily tries and condemns the Great Grump, an effigy built by children in town, the sacrificial scapegoat for the discordance between nature and technology, to be burned in the bonfire.

Now with a clean slate, the townspeople look forward to a new harvest of winter snow.

While the festival attracts out-of-towners, it remains very much a community celebration and serves to remind Crested Butte residents that there is much more to the town’s history than the ski industry, Telander says.

“It allows us to get to know our friends and neighbors — a chance to gather our tribe around us after the tourist season,” she says.

All in all, the Vinotok Festival is great fun for all and a yearly tradition not to be missed.

Also not to be missed are the mountain ranges surrounding the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley, with brush strokes of gold, orange and crimson evident at every turn in September and early October. Known for the largest, most spectacular aspen grove in the U.S., the area offers eye-popping vistas. Check out gunnisoncrestedbutte .com for the best fall scenic drive routes and hiking trails.

Corey Dwan – REALTOR
Benson Sotheby’s International Realty
P.O. Box 210
433 Sixth Street
Crested Butte, CO 81224
970-596-3219 Cell
970-325-3219 World Wide Cell
970-349-6653 Office
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www.CrestedButteForSale.com