Vinotok 2016

Burn the Grump!

Grace Flynn/ Staff Writer

Audience members gathering to enjoy the ceremony! Some members get dressed up to attend the event. Photo by Grace Flynn
Audience members gathering to enjoy the ceremony! Some members get dressed up to attend the event. Photo by Grace Flynn

Crisp air, warm smiles, spiritual dancing and the burning of the sour spirits from last winter is what Vinotok is all about. For the past 32 years, a local artist in Crested Butte builds a giant figure made out of wood, steel and “grumps.” The grumps stand for grievances that locals share. They write them down and put them in boxes to be washed away for the new season.

On September 24, locals and visitors gathered on Elk Street, which is in the middle of Crested Butte, and share the experience of people dressed in character, playing drums and dancing to the beat of the music.

The street is crowded with people listening to the story of the harvest and what each character plays a part in. This ritual is described as mumming. The story moves down the street until each of the characters reaches a large stage where the trial happens. This is where the audience listens to the agreement that the Grump needs to be burned along with evils of man like technology.

The green man that represents earth and nature, and a figure that represents technologies and the influence of development on nature, fight and battle each other until there is an agreement.  The grump is described as a scapegoat that is sentenced to death. The grump is about 25 feet tall and it is brought in during the trial.

Once the trial takes place and the agreement is to burn the Grump, a procession marches him down to the end of Elk Street where there is an open space. Once there, the characters place him in the middle of the open space and set him on fire.

When talking with locals and visitors, there are many different reactions to this ritual. People from all over Colorado come to watch and observe what happens every year in this small town. “A group of friends and I just happened to stumble upon this event years ago, and we try to come up as much as we can. We have been to this event four years now,” said a visitor from Vail.

A group of drummers follows the story down the street while playing. The drums are played by members of the Gunnison and Crested Butte community! Photo by Grace Flynn
A group of drummers follows the story down the street while playing. The drums are played by members of the Gunnison and Crested Butte community! Photo by Grace Flynn

First timers describe this experience as unique and say they feel welcomed during this event. It is an obscure event, and everyone is encouraged to take part. When asking first timers what they were expecting, different responses were given.

“I am expecting the ritual to be awesome and the thought of cleaning the soul of anger is pretty cool!” said Melanie Turner, who is a freshman at Western.

At the end, new comers are left with the vision of the giant statue lit up in flames, the characters from the stories, and the community members who take the tradition to heart.

Second timers are more prepared for what is going to happen, and are excited to participate for yet another year. One notable difference at the 2016 event was that the Grump was not as intensely burned as it was last year.

Community members remember that the fire from last year was so hot, it caused audience members to be burned by the flames. The flames from the fire also reached extreme height, and caused parts of the statue to fly into community member yards and cause damage to their property.

Vinotok is a tradition that starts the year off right for the avid skiers and snowboarders. The tradition is a vital part of the Crested Butte community, and the season would not feel the same without it!

 The bad memories of what happened in the year before are no longer on the minds of the snow shredders, and the community is ready for a new season to make new memories on the mountain!