“I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music.” ~ Billy Joel
Music. It has a way of energizing and bringing people together. And there is perhaps no better venue to share that experience than the Festival at Sandpoint, which for nearly four decades has brought people together from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Now in its 36th year, The Festival at Sandpoint is the perfect staycation and has also become a traditional vacation for tourists each August. And it’s time once again to let the party begin!
For many who live in Sandpoint, we know the influx of energy that arrives each year at Festival time. The streets, restaurants, stores and beach are filled, and there is a lot of joy in the air.
But it is not just the fans who benefit from this incredible event; the local economy does as well. In a study conducted by the University of Idaho in 2012, the findings were impressive as to just how the Festival impacts Sandpoint.
“That is the most recent study, so I assume the impact is even greater six years later,” said Festival at Sandpoint’s Executive Director Dyno Wahl. “I am looking to update this study in 2020.”
Some of the statistics from the 2012 study include the following:
• The Festival generates at least $2 million in direct impact to the Sandpoint economy each year.
• The Festival contributes $500,000 in accommodations impact each year.
• Twenty-five FTE (full-time equivalent jobs) are created throughout Sandpoint because the Festival exists.
• Fifty-two percent of ticket holders are visiting from out of state, and the average ticket buyer spends $100 on shopping and dining in Sandpoint.
And while it is a two-week long festival with eight amazing nights of music, the work to make the Festival at Sandpoint an incredible success is a year-round task.
Wahl said she typically begins the search for the following year’s artists right after the Festival ends. “Sometimes it’s even sooner though,” she said. “I’m actually working on a big country act for 2019 right now!”
At the end of August, Wahl attends a conference that kicks off the process of learning who may be out on tour and coming to our region. “I have a booking committee that is made up of board members with a variety of musical tastes. We make our wish list in September that includes input from who our Facebook fans would like to see. Then we start exploring what is possible, weighing factors like availability and what a venue of our size can afford,” she said.
If you live in our area, it is no surprise that there are a multitude of amazing local performers who entertain year-round. When searching for opening acts, Wahl states that she always takes every opportunity to promote Sandpoint and regional talent as openers. “However, my suggestions are always subject to approval from the main act, and sometimes they have a different opinion as to what is compatible with their sound,” she said. “It has also become increasingly common for headliners to bring their own support as part of their summer tour, which makes for less opportunities for our local performers, but I still try every chance I get!”
While the Festival has three full-time, year-round employees as well as a part-time bookkeeper, the staff increases considerably in the summer months with a box office manager intern and two additional box office staff during the Festival. “Dave Nygren serves as our production manager, Paul Gunter is our site manager, and they have a production crew of a dozen dedicated men and women,” said Wahl.
And then there are the volunteers. In fact, there are over 500 who cover duties that include gates, ushers, security, first aid, transportation, merchandise, artist hospitality, bar, Festival Street, chair rental, set design and special events. “And there is the amazing ‘green team’ that makes the Festival look bright and new each morning with minimal impact to the environment,” said Wahl.
Now in her 20th year as the Festival at Sandpoint’s executive director, Wahl said that she has many concerts that stand out most in her mind as do many of the Festival’s fans.
“It’s still hard for me to believe that the legendary Smokey Robinson was on our stage, with dancers, back-up singers and costume changes, what a showman!” said Wahl, who added that Dwight Yoakam blew her way. “I am not a big country fan, and he put on a barn burner of a show with four encores ending with his version of Elvis’ Suspicious Minds—I was dancing on my chair along with the other 3,000 people in attendance on that one!”
In recent years, the Avett Brothers, Counting Crows, Brandi Carlisle and Steve Miller Band were definite highlights for Festival fans.
“Michael Franti and John Butler Trio cast a magic spell, Pink Martini was a delight and Angelique Kidjo was pure joy. Finally, I don’t think Festival fans will ever forget the Brett Dennen and Donavon Frankenreiter show that ended in a deluge and both bands heading to Eichardt’s for an impromptu encore to the delight of quite a few lucky, die-hard, rain-soaked fans!”
So, what are you waiting for? Join the stars—and the volunteers—at Memorial Field at The Festival of Sandpoint, with its eight nights of music and a season lineup that serves up its trademark eclectic mix with headliners Big Head Todd + The Monsters kicking off this season August 2, followed by Amos Lee (August 3), ZZ Top (August 4), Greensky Bluegrass (August 9), Sublime With Rome (August 10), Gavin Degraw and Phillip Phillips (August 11) and the Spokane Symphony (August 12).
And don’t forget about the Family Concert on Sunday, August 5, featuring The Festival Community Orchestra and Sandpoint’s Studio One Dancers. There are wonderful pre-concert activities for the kids including the Instrument Petting Zoo where youngsters can try out various instruments with help from musical mentors. There will also be an animal petting zoo, pony rides, clowns, face painting, games and the popular Parents’ Corner where parents can take a break and receive a complimentary mini-massage. The best part about this is tickets are only $6 each.
Come out and join the party! You will not be disappointed!
Pop Out Box:
This year, the Festival at Sandpoint will honor John Porter at the Grand Finale concert. John passed away in August 2017, and he and his wife, Sue, have supported the Festival for many years. Attending the Festival is a tradition that has always included John and Sue’s children and grandchildren who have come to love the Festival. Join their family on August 12 as the community pays tribute to John.