By Ben Olson
Whether you’ve seen every Festival at Sandpoint show since the ‘80s or this is your first time, there’s always room to make the experience more enjoyable for you and others.
In the interest of sharing, we’ve compiled some guidelines for how you can get the most out of your night. To those about to rock, we salute you.
How to get there
Obviously, the best option is to walk to Memorial Field if you can. Those on bicycles will have ample places to lock up their bikes to racks that were added with the new grandstand construction, or along the fenceline if those are already full. The best option if you can’t walk or bike is to take the SPOT Bus from Sandpoint High School’s parking lot to the Festival. It’s free and helps ease the congestion around Memorial Field. If you must drive, understand that you are going to have to walk several blocks from your parking space, and afterward, you will need to be patient as the slow crawl of vehicles vacates the area. Best advice: Take it slow and don’t be in a hurry. We don’t do road rage here in North Idaho.
What to bring
Everyone plans differently, but there are a handful of items that make the Festival more comfortable. Lawn chairs are great, unless you plan on sitting in the grandstands or in patron seating. Be sure to bring low-profile chairs so the person behind you doesn’t scowl and “accidentally” spill their beer on your blanket. Another option is to rent a chair from the Festival for $3.
Also essential is a blanket to mark off your spot on the ground and sit on during the performance. When I say blanket I don’t mean an enormous tarp that could cover a house’s roof. Be considerate and try not to take up too much room with your blanket. Blanket etiquette is important; make sure you leave a small walking space between blankets or people will tromp on your quilt with dirty bare feet and shoes as they make their way to the aisle.
“This year, in our merchandise booth, we tried to think of what people might forget to bring,” said Dyno Wahl, executive director at the Festival at Sandpoint. “We have mobile phone chargers, sunglasses. You might also want to bring a jacket or a sweatshirt, as people are surprised at how cool it gets after dark.”
One of the unique qualities of the Festival at Sandpoint is the fact that you can bring your own food and drinks in a cooler. While the food options at the Festival are always fun to sample, you can save a lot by loading your beers and grub into the cooler, but the downside is you’ll have to lug the cooler in and out of the venue. Glass bottles are allowed, but if you have a non-glass option, it’s best to keep it plastic or aluminum to avoid broken glass.
What not to bring
Pets aren’t allowed at the Festival, with the exception of trained and certified service dogs, so leave Fido at home. Also, don’t bring any drugs or illegal substances into the venue – the music and atmosphere will give you a great high, trust me. You are allowed to bring in your own alcohol if you are 21 or over.
Also, for the first time this year, there will be security screenings at the entrance to ensure that no guns or knives will be brought inside. Yes, you can bring your cheese knife, but no Bowie knives or machetes, please.
“If you’re cutting your brie with a machete, we’ll offer you a plastic utensil,” Wahl said.
How to act
There are a couple of important guidelines to follow to cohabitate the space successfully with your neighbors.
Keep the pushing, shoving and aggressive behavior at bay – nobody puts Baby in the corner.
“A lot of people have complained about the fact that people are there to listen to the music, so keep socializing to times between acts or before the show,” Wahl said. “If you are going to have a conversation, keep it low and try to be respectful so it doesn’t interfere with others’ enjoyment of the music. For some people the Festival is a social event, but at the heart of it, it’s all about the music.”
Also, there are two different types of configuration at the Festival – one is for the regular shows with blanket space right up to the stage, and the other a dance configuration with a large standing room area in the middle.
If it’s a dance concert – this year’s dance shows are Greensky Bluegrass on Aug. 9 and Sublime with Rome on Aug. 10 – you can place your blanket outside the middle and keep your stuff there, and enter the dance area without coolers or backpacks so everyone can twirl and spin to their heart’s content.
If it’s a regular configuration, most people will remain seated on blankets during performances, while permanent dance areas will be located to the left and right of the stage.
“We used to tell people to sit down if they stood during a regular show,” said Wahl, “but we don’t do that anymore. We figure the crowd dictates that. If the majority of people are standing up, they’ll stand up. We don’t allow people to stand in the aisles, though.”
The most important part
In conclusion, it’s important to remember that this is a kick-ass Festival and you’re supposed to have a great time. Leave your worries at the gate, turn off your cell phone, crack open a beer and listen to the great music the Festival at Sandpoint has brought to our humble town.