Festival memories from the Reader staff

Full circle at The Festival
By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Though I’ve lived in Bonner County all my life, I’d attended The Festival maybe once before I was asked to walk onto its stage in 2014. I’d won a scholarship from The Festival and Angels Over Sandpoint meant to encourage area youth to explore the arts. The scholarship rotates its focus each year and, when I was a senior, it happened to be focused on my passion: writing.

Festival organizers invited my parents and me to the Family Concert and asked me to be introduced onstage. I was terrified. I’d never stood before such an expanse of people. I don’t remember if I said anything, or what was said about me, but I remember thinking that I much preferred hiding behind the written word.

Since then, my Festival at Sandpoint memories have piled up considerably. It’s always an exciting time of year for the Reader staff, as we hand out those weeks’ newspapers to attendees waiting in line and take photos of the performers from the press pit. I’ve seen some of my favorite artists perform — the Head and the Heart, Nathaniel Rateliff, The Avett Brothers — and have been able to share those experiences with the people whom I love. 

My sisters and I enjoyed Gavin DeGraw together, and I brought my now-fiancé Alex along for Jake Owen in 2017. That was Alex’s first concert, ever, and now he’s a Festival veteran — a professional at choosing the perfect spot for our blanket and willing to wait in line for curry while I run around with my camera.

My mom recently found the program for the 2014 Family Concert. Inside, my senior photo is printed beside my biography. I wrote about my upbringing and my plans to study journalism in college.

“I am full of uncertainty and anxious to see where the world takes me, but of one thing I am sure,” I wrote, “I have always been and I always will be a writer.”

I guess I had that right. From nervous on stage to awestruck in the press pit, things appear to have come full circle.


The biggest stage in town
By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

I have been attending The Festival at Sandpoint since I was a snot-nosed little kid hanging on the chain link fence to listen to some of the greats, such as Johnny Cash and June Carter, the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, John Prine and so many more. My summers are filled with warm memories of War Memorial Field as fellow concertgoers gathered for the coolest annual cultural event in this town’s history.

To pick just a few of these memories is a difficult task, but two distinct experiences remain at the top of my list:

In 2017, I was honored to be chosen to play one of Charley Packard’s songs at the 7B Stars Memorial Concert. It was the first time I had played a song on The Festival stage, and it could not have gone better. The crowd was mostly locals, and everyone was gathered to pay tribute to Charley and his wonderful music that has touched so many of us here in North Idaho. I was so honored to play among so many of Charley’s friends — each of them amazing musicians in their own right.

The following year, much to the surprise of my band — Harold’s IGA — we were asked to open for a group that helped define my adolescence: Sublime. We had about 12 days notice before the show, so we rented a studio space and practiced every day to make sure we didn’t make fools of ourselves in front of the whole town.

On a sweltering 102-degree day in August, we emerged from our band trailer (!) and took the stage to play our 45-minute set. It was — and remains — the best time I’ve ever had playing live in front of people. The Festival stage crew members were so accommodating and nice to us, even though we were just a no-name band from Sandpoint. The sound on stage was amazing, and we even got to say a brief “hello” to Sublime with Rome backstage. 

As I told my bandmates as we were being introduced before our set, “It’s all downhill from here, guys.”


Courtesy kids
By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Courtesy Kids. Does anybody remember this program? I do. I was one of the proud and brave youngsters who donned the white Festival at Sandpoint T-shirt and helped concertgoers run pell-mell to their preferred blanket spots. Talk about a work out. My first year, in 1991, when I was 11, I remember standing on the balls of my feet at the gate, jumpy and eager for anyone to hand me their cooler and hump it at high speed across the then-bumpy grass field. 

For a brief moment, I was on their team — competing against the other Courtesy Kids (in my own mind, at least) to get my person to their optimal spot. If I carried your cooler between 1991 and 1994, I can assure you, I cared about nothing more in that animal sprint than making sure you sat where you wanted to sit. 

One memory of that time that sticks out is when I cajoled my childhood chum, Brandon, to join the Courtesy Kids squad and we partnered to carry the bigger coolers. Well, we had a big one this one time, and had to carry it side by side. As we huffed and puffed along, I felt something hit my right shoulder, which I can only describe as a sopping wet roll of toilet paper. I jerked my head to see what hit me, and saw Brandon looking across like he’d been hit by a drywaller’s roller. He was spattered white from forehead to waist. 

Osprey shit. 

God, it stunk, but we kept on keeping on and apologized to our person when we arrived at their spot. See, the bird had planted its crap dead center on the lid of the cooler and those fine early-August zephyrs of wind that came off the river had swirled its fishy leavings into a splat pattern that tagged us with at least a six-foot radius. Needless to say, Brandon and I got a tip when our patrons saw the state we were in.

My Festival memories are too many for this space, which include the time my dad broke out of a family camping trip to Priest Lake and drove me all the way to see Booker T. and the MG’s, from whom I wangled a signed copy of “Green Onions”; meeting Gunther Schuller, after which I seriously contemplated a career as a conductor; and slinging drinks alongside my dearly departed uncle, John Conlan, whose mayoral candidacies I wholeheartedly supported. 

One that sticks out is when, as a Courtesy Kid, I had the good fortune to haul the photography gear of the legendary Cap Davis. He let me second him all night — no more plebeian coolers for me that night — teaching me about his art, telling me stories of the places he’d been and events he’d captured; he even bought me an ice cream cone. 

The Festival organizers gave out little star pins with the year of our service emblazoned on them, and, of all the honors I’ve received in the intervening years, these remain among my favorites.

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