SINCE 1983, THE FESTIVAL AT SANDPOINT has served as the premier music event for North Idaho, featuring music of all genres – from its classical roots, to jazz, bluegrass, country, rock, blues and more. It seems almost improbable that the small community on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille could draw more than 20,000 music lovers to hear the likes of Emmy Lou Harris, Wynton Marsalis, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Lyle Lovett, and other such superstars over the years, but to the delight of listeners near and far, it has.
Organizers say the intimate setting and surrounding area are key to the longevity of the event. That, and a supportive community dedicated to the arts, is what keeps the tradition of The Festival alive.
The year 2014 is no exception. The 32nd Annual Festival at Sandpoint lineup this year includes: The Head and the Heart with Mikey and Matty; Huey Lewis and The News; Nickel Creek; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue with Special Guest Galactic; Ray Lamontagne; Montgomery Gentry and the Spokane Symphony.
Concerts take place, August 7-17 at Memorial Field, 855 Ontario Street. Individual concert prices range from $6, which is a Family Night Concert, to about $60. See the Festival at Sandpoint website for more detailed information: FestivalatSandpoint.com.
In the early days of the Festival, the mission was to bring the sounds of classical symphony music to town, but the success of its early popularity gave rise to an expanding array of popular commercial music acts as well. True to the mission – each year the Festival culminates with an open-air grand finale by the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.
Not only has the Festival at Sandpoint brought its yearly festival to the music lovers, it has also developed as a nonprofit organization that invests in local music talent and appreciation. The Festival at Sandpoint’s mission: “to make exceptional musicians and great performances accessible to the community and the surrounding region.”
In the years 1985-96, the Festival offered a summer music institute for advancing young professional musicians in the area of composition, chamber, jazz and conducting. The Schweitzer Institute of Music, as it was called, was led by Maestro Gunther Schuller of the Spokane Symphony. Schuller is a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Music; A MacCarther Foundation “Genius Award” recipient; recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, as well as a three-time Grammy Winner.
The Festival at Sandpoint launched a Fifth Grade Music Outreach Program in 1999, which led the organization into a new educational direction. Through this outreach, private, public school and home school students in Bonner and Boundary Counties participate in music workshops from notable area musicians.
Also of benefit to local students is the Festival’s Instrument Assistance Program, which provides assistance getting musical instruments into the hands of local students who wish to play but may not be able to afford the cost. This program has also provided a number of instruments and guitars to area school music programs.
Area high school seniors who plan to continue their college studies in the areas of music and performing arts have also benefited from scholarships awarded by the Festival through support of area businesses and organizations. Another scholarship program, Angels Over Sandpoint Dance, provides up to $1,000 to area high schoolers (public, private or home-schooled) who wish to attend workshops, lessons or tuition toward furthering their dance, vocal and/or visual arts performance study.
Organizer Dyno Wahl says The Festival has had some ups and downs over the years, and in lean times the community has always pitched in to keep it going in recognition of its cultural and economic importance to our community.
Says Dyno, “In 2001, we recognized that we would have to replace the Festival’s trademark tent which was purchased in 1984 to memorialize Festival founder Fred (Winifred) Kubiak who had died tragically in a car accident right before the first Festival that she had worked so hard to produce. We had a fundraising dinner right on stage so that our supporters could look up and see the holes in the tent and how badly it needing replacing. We raised $40,000 in one night and ordered the new tent the next day!”
The Festival at Sandpoint is an open-air, intimate concert setting that is casual and near to nature. Seating is “festival style” meaning, blankets and lawn chairs. This means the earlier you arrive, the more choices you’ll have to get your preferred viewing spot. Some concertgoers arrive as early as 5 a.m. to get in line for their spots in front of the stage!
Festival organizers begin handing out numbers around 8 a.m. and at intervals throughout the day, to about 300. With each number, a person is allowed to receive a place in line for a party of 4. Spaces are limited to an 8’ by 8’ blanket/chair set up. Only low chairs are permitted in the blanket area, other lawn chairs are permitted behind the blanket area.
After the people with numbers are admitted, general admission begins. In other words – prepare for a line!
Smoking is not permitted in the field and concessions are available for purchase. Patrons are permitted to bring food and drink as well. Memorial Field is handicapped accessible.