Fall festivals …

What fun.

I’m thinking …

candied apples,

pumpkin carving,

wooly sweaters,

and a flaming



I knew that would get your attention.

Strange as it sounds, I really did mean to say “grump.”


Come with me …

We’re taking a virtual vacation to a mysteriously fab fall festival in the quaint ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Be sure to pack a peasant dress.

You’ll see why when we get there.

It’s dusk on a cool autumn evening as we snuggle into a happy crowd of travelers, locals, and theatrical performers reveling throughout Elk Avenue, the main street in town.

For a moment, it’s easy to believe we’ve traveled back in time to pagan Europe, back to the days when bountiful harvests were celebrated with the help of sizzling superstition, music, and bonfires—enough heated merriment to make it through the long, cold winter ahead. Golden aspen leaves flutter from makeshift staffs, and wreaths of wildflowers ring the heads of maidens who dance with abandon to the rhythmic beat of drums along the street.

This is what the mountain folk call Vinotok.

The 2012 Vinotok celebration began on the Autumnal Equinox. Photo by Chris Bové

“Each year, Crested Butte celebrates its European heritage by reviving a 1,000-year-old Slavic tradition during its Vinotok Festival,” reports The Gazette. “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.”

Photo by Chris Bové

Forgetting the woes of yesterday?

Enter: the Grump.

The Great Grump is an egregious effigy, crafted by Crested Butte’s creative kids, which symbolizes all of the world’s grievances, complaints, and, well—grumps. This year, the Grump appeared to be a papier-mâché monstrosity with antlers and a gaping hole where a face might have been.


It is said that townspeople pen their problems on scraps of paper and stuff the Grump prior to its inevitable trial by fire …

When the sun falls and darkness descends upon the mountains, torches blaze to illuminate the revelry as the town magistrate begins the Trial of the Grump on an outdoor stage for all to witness.

“The Grump is everything we want to forget and let go of,” explains journalist Molly Murphee. “He is stuffed with our own grumps, grievances, and woes. The Grump, even though given a fair trial by the magistrate who is representing justice and fairness, is sentenced to burn—and with it, the negative energy of the community.”

Giant marshmallows for roasting over the Grump. Photo by Chris Bové

After the official ruling, the townspeople cheer and chant “Burn the Grump!” as they proceed with the Grump (mounted on wheels) to the town center.

There, the Grump is set ablaze in a bonfire fit for a bacchanal.

Photo by Chris Bové

And so, Vinotok reaches its crescendo as the year’s worries and woes are sent skyward on purgative plumes of smoke.

Winter, here we come.

Read more about Crested Butte’s Vinotok Festival and start planning your trip next fall by visiting

  1. Judy Moore says:

    Sounds like something I would enjoy attending. Until then, think I’ll write my woes on a slip of paper and toast on my grill at my colorful autumn home in the Ozarks.

  2. Terry Steinmetz says:

    Are those really giant marshmallows or my imagination? This festival sounds great! Where we get winter for such a l-o-n-g time, I could see it doing great deal of good to do the grump. But then we could celebrate quietly with a nice fire, roast marshmallows, hot cocoa & fresh bread! What a delight!!!

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is an interesting Slavic tradition. Fall is so full of cultural traditions like Halloween, Guy Faulks Day, Martinmas, Jewish New Year celebrations etc. The fall seems to be when cleansing or celebrating rituals took place before the hunkering down for a long cold winter.

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