By Lyndsie Kiebert
When Robb Talbott and his wife, Tasha, lived in West Virginia, they frequented an annual event at a ski touring center meant to celebrate the changing of the seasons and welcoming winter with open arms. When they moved to Sandpoint a few years ago and started Mattox Farm Productions, Talbott decided to combine the concepts from that beloved West Virginia event with his knack for putting on concerts.
“The purpose was to get stoked for winter, and get everybody together and get excited for the season,” Talbott said. “[Then we] had the idea to bring in music and have a sort of music festival in the wintertime.”
Sandpoint’s third annual Jack Frost Fest is Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Heartwood Center from 5 p.m. until the party dies out. With four live bands, a raffle and beer tasting, the event is quickly becoming an early-winter community mainstay.
Jack Frost Fest is also family friendly during the earlier hours, featuring yard games, facepainting and the addition of cookie decorating this year thanks to Creations — one of the many nonprofits also making an appearance at Jack Frost Fest. Others include Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education, Schweitzer Avalanche Rescue Dogs, Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center, Sandpoint Nordic Club and Music Bridges Borders, all there to raise awareness for their missions. Talbott said proceeds from the raffle and beer tasting are split between the nonprofits.
Bringing the tunes to Jack Frost Fest this year are singer-songwriter Kevin Dorin, local indie rockers Harold’s IGA, Spokane-based Americana rock band Trego and Runaway Symphony — an alternative rock band known for emotional and energetic live performances.
Runaway Symphony, fronted by Bonners Ferry native Daniel Botkin, played Mattox Farm shows in North Idaho last November. Botkin said he was so sick that he could barely sing.
“It was like one of those weird dreams where you suddenly realize you’re in public and your clothes have vanished,” Botkin said. “But I am definitely looking forward to coming back and getting a second chance to sing our songs with a healthy voice.”
Talbott said Runaway Symphony’s 2018 Pearl Theater show as one of the best he’s ever seen, recounting the way Botkin’s bandmates picked up the slack for him.
“You could really see their relationships and love for the music come out,” Talbott said. “A lot of people have been asking to bring them back.”
Runaway Symphony is currently in the process of recording its third full-length album.
“I’m a little biased, because it’s still the honeymoon phase, but I think this is the best collection of songs we’ve ever put together,” Botkin said. “You can catch a sneak peak of some of the new songs when we come up.”
The current schedule for Jack Frost Fest — which Talbott said is subject to slight change — sees Dorin on the Chapel Hall main stage at 5 p.m., Harold’s IGA at 5:45 p.m., Runaway Symphony at 7 p.m. and Trego at 9:30 p.m. to party out the night. During downtime between Chapel Hall sets, Dorin will play in the Grove Room.
Unlike past years, when Jack Frost Fest featured genres varying from the down-home sounds of Moonshine Mountain to the funky grooves of Shakewell, this year’s event features artists with more common styles. The result will be more “flow” during the evening, Talbott said.
“I didn’t want it to be too much of the same thing,” he said, “but also to not have as much contrast.”
This year, Mattox Farm is also producing a show in Bonners Ferry at the Pearl Theater the night before Jack Frost Fest. Hillstomp, an American punk blues duo from Portland, will play the Pearl Friday, Dec. 13, and those looking to attend both nights can purchase a special combo ticket at mattoxfarm.com for $30. Talbott said it’s Mattox Farms’ way of flirting with the idea of a Friday-to-Saturday music festival, which could be the future of Jack Frost Fest.
As Jack Frost Fest has evolved over the past three years, Talbott said it’s all been in an effort to create an event that reflects the desires of its attendees.
“It’s changing so much each year. The development of it is my favorite part,” he said. “This started as an idea that Tasha and I had to bring something we love to this community we love, and it’s been influenced by that community.”
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