Crested Butte Welcomes the Autumn Equinox
Crested Butte combines its Eastern European roots and the autumn equinox with the 25th annual Vinotox celebration September 13-18, 2010. Vinotox means “fall wine festival” in Slovenian, a time to recognize the summer harvest and gather the community before the upcoming winter.
The origin of the festival is credited to Marcie Telander. She listened to the old-timers telling stories around the pot belly stove in Tony’s Conoco. The stories had roots in their native lands of Austria, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Scotland and Slovenia. A common thread was a fall festival near the equinox, a time when new wine was made and old wine needed to be drunk, a time to feast, dance, and tell tales.
Today’s celebration includes storytelling workshops, liar’s night, a community feast, “Grump Boxes”, and enormous bonfire. Thursday evening, September 16th, The Eldo fills with tall tales, whoppers and adventure stories blow into massive proportions. Prizes are awarded for the town’s best liars. On Friday evening the community gathers at Rainbow Park Pavilion to feast on roast pig, corn, potatoes and traditional Croatian and Slovenian foods.
Late Saturday afternoon medieval characters including maidens, torchbearers and accompanying entourage “mum” through downtown and into restaurants sharing harvest songs, dancing and inviting everyone to join in the festivities.
In preparation for Vinotok local school children place decorated “Grump Boxes” around town. Townspeople, and visitors, write down their “Grumps” or grievances that they want to forget so that they can start the new season with a clean slate. Saturday evening the boxes are stuffed into a 20-foot tall grimacing effigy – the Grump. The Grump is put on trial, found guilty – of course, and goes up in flames at the massive bonfire – along with everyone’s grievances. Then it’s time to free-spiritedly move into the next season – winter and a bounty of skiable white powder.
My theory is that the Crested Butte community, which survives on tourism, especially enjoys a time when the summer tourists have retreated and the skiers have yet to descend. I grew up in a college town and remember how much we appreciated the weeks when students were not in residence. You could drive across campus without dodging distracted academia, fine a parking place near the library or leisurely browse the shops of campus town. As much as “The Butte” appreciates and caters to their visitors they also celebrate their community. Visitors are certainly welcome to join them in the frivolity of Vinotox.