Renew: To make new; restore to freshness, vigor or perfection.

Renewal: The quality or state of being renewed.

The 2-evening celebration “Renewal” at the Meadows Sept. 24–25 was a magical, soulful and energetic experience for all who managed to grab one of the 5,000 tickets available.

Bonfire Entertainment and Billy Strings chose this little slice of heaven for a much-anticipated album release. String’s “Renewal” hit the world Sept. 24 and through 2 nights, 6 sets and some late-night jam sessions, he was able to intimately release his art to a crowd that included face-painted children, headphone wearing toddlers, young adults, old adults, backstage deer and everything and everyone in between.

Renewal was a perfect theme as Buena Vista and the nation begin to unravel from all that has been and still is a global pandemic.

Scotty Stoughton, owner of Bonfire Entertainment, is no stranger to the pristine location, the town, and throwing sustainable, like-minded, community-oriented festivals. Stoughton and his team are also behind Campout for the Cause, WinterWondergrass and RiverWondergrass.

As he’s been navigating this pandemic world in a job whose main purpose is to create beautiful events with a lot of people, he’s found solace in looking for the beauty in the challenge.

Concertgoers had to show either a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination.

The team worked with Buena Vista’s Clean Republic on infection prevention. There were touchless hand dispensers in high traffic areas, masks were welcomed, but in no way forced, personal responsibility was encouraged and it felt like a safe place to be. Neighbors and visitors alike enjoyed this fun-filled weekend.

“My experience watching Billy Strings and his band perform at Renewal was chock-full of things a successful music fest aims to provide: Joy, gratitude, and shared laughs; all covered with inspiration,” said Erin Wenzel of Buena Vista.

“I loved the intimacy within the huge crowd. The convenience and fun of camping at the venue made the experience amazing. It felt like being completely away from home, but literally in my backyard,” Salida’s Samantha Bahn said.

“The focus on getting tickets in the hands of locals made for a reunion of sorts after our extended pandemic separation.  The public health protocols created a safe environment for the geographically diverse crowd to come together as one bluegrass-loving community,” ,” said BV’s Casey Martin. “And the friendly vibe my wife and I experienced on Friday night encouraged us to bring our 8- and 10-year-old boys on Saturday (the 3-year-old stayed home with grandma).  They had an excellent time, and while they were impressed with Billy Strings, local legend Coleman Smith really stole the show for them.”

Moving forward, the Bonfire Entertainment team is excited to make both a June Campout for the Cause and a fall Renewal yearly events.

“Let’s make it great. Our ultimate goal is to work together with the people of the town,” Stoughton said. “Looking forward, we plan on giving the community a full recap, opening the discussion, bringing everyone together and having a town hall.

“These festivals are a ton of work. I’m not one to want to grow to grow. I am all about creating certain events in sacred places, and doing it right, while being mindful of the community.”

For those who are still resistant to music in the Meadows, Stoughton says he has empathy and compassion.

“I totally get it. I’m the first person on the site. I’m the last person to leave,” he said. “I talk to every neighbor. I listen to the plusses and negatives. I want to talk to everybody.”

Our little mountain haven is growing exponentially. Bonfire Entertainment is a good partner to showcase thoughtful, authentic and respectful events going forward.

“Growth is happening, so let’s work together to guide cultural strategy. Strategic thought and community involvement are my number one priority,” says Stoughton.

“A nod should also be given to Chaffee County,” he said. “They were so amazing and supportive. We hope to be a model of what a festival at The Meadows looks like moving forward.”

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