Vinotok moves toward intimate community celebration

No bonfire this year

[ by Mark Reaman ]

As we roll into September, thoughts of one of Crested Butte’s favorite festivals, Vinotok, begin to emerge. This will be the 36th year for the popular fall event and it will be different in that there will be no bonfire that burns the Grump in the traditional weekend finale.
It is the spectacle of the giant bonfire that normally draws thousands of people to the town and organizers want to make sure people understand there will not be that fire this year.

“We’ve realized people are targeting Vinotok for our bonfire, without understanding the mythology and meaning behind our celebrations,” said Molly Murfee one of the creative co-directors of Vinotok. “We’ve had quite a bit of disrespect over the years from the crowd, and it becomes exhausting. We do things like pay close to $2,000 for 13 portalets for a two-hour fire. Meanwhile, we try to keep our entry donations to our events low so everyone can participate. That becomes financially hard to manage as well. We’re taking advantage of this “pandemic pause” to reevaluate what we’re doing and why. It’s giving us a chance to reconfigure, without being stuck inside what we’ve always done. But at the end of all of this, our driving desire is to bring Vinotok back to the community, to offer a place of pause, and coming together.

“We, as Vinotok, much like our community, have been feeling overrun lately,” Murfee continued. “The word “consumed” has come up. Recently, as we look out from the fire circle, we’re not seeing our community in the crowd, and that’s the reason we do Vinotok – so our community can come together and celebrate. It’s that grounding down as a unit before winter settles in. We are in the “gray, fuzzy area” of the pandemic, not completely in the clear yet. We don’t want to bring thousands of people to Crested Butte for Vinotok because we want to invest in the physical health of our community. We’ve been watching the West burn.”

Murfee said the size of the fire has varied over the years and while last year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic, the valley was under a fire ban in September and so wouldn’t have had the fire in 2020 anyway.

“We want people to learn about the roots of the celebrations in the Myth, Meaning & Ritual night with Marcie Telander. We want to share our values of honoring the earth and our community through the Harvest Mother Celebration and selection of our Green Man, or the value of honoring our ancestral stories at the Storytelling night,” explained Murfee. “We know we need to be good stewards to our place, and good neighbors to each other. We are living in the midst of toxic patriarchal systems that suffer greatly from the lack of diverse voices and female voices. These are all components of the rest of our celebrations. We will be doing our Vinotok Pilgrimage this year again, with the altars out in the community, nature and the Wastelands to bring these components more fervently forward, to create this sense of pause and personal ritual around the changing of the seasons.

“We’ve always loved the Community Feast, and that is the largest place we see our friends and neighbors show up,” said Murfee. ”So we’ll be doing that on the Autumn Equinox itself. We’re interested in the transformation, of letting go of grievances, of finding balance, of entering that liminal space where the human and more-than-human communities, like our animal neighbors, the earth, air and sky, are in a reciprocal conversation and relationship with each other.”

As for the future, Murfee said there is no plan. “What we have talked about is exercising our creative freedom to listen to the community, to listen to the land and to come together to offer celebrations that speak to the energies of the times,” she concluded. “The world is in a constant state of shift, this we know, and we must also be able to shift. This is what’s behind our theme for this year “As the Spirit Moves Us,” we want to be able to be more nimble, less predictable, more full of mystery, magic, wonder and spontaneity. Folks might have to pick their heads up a little more to figure out what’s going on. They might need to put their ear to the ground to listen to the word on the street.”

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