By Lyndsie Kiebert
Tucked in the forests of North Idaho, a few things can be expected—plenty of wild animals, logging roads, an abandoned shack here and there, maybe a Sasquatch sighting. Less expected might be a weekend-long festival of performers from across the United States, gathered to celebrate music, nature and companionship. And yet, on the Sagle peninsula of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint SummerFest rocks the woods annually, furthering the unique character of the Idaho Panhandle.
Sandpoint SummerFest takes place over the weekend of July 8-10 and is put on by the Eureka Institute, a local nonprofit organization that executive director Steve Holt said prides itself on promoting life-long learning. SummerFest is in its 18th year—and still one of a kind.
“It’s a super unique music festival,” said Eureka Institute board president John Edwards, emphasizing the fact that acts at SummerFest perform on a wooden stage in a grass amphitheater—part of the institute’s 40 acres of property on the peninsula. “There is no other venue like it,” he added.
Even more unique, the event is limited to 400 people. Tickets are available via a link on the institute’s website, and prices vary depending upon days attended, camping plans and whether the attendee desires all-access to food and drink provided by Eichardt’s Pub on site. Other details, such as the institute’s request that attendees leave their pets at home, can also be found on their website, along with an hour-by-hour schedule of events Friday through Sunday.
“[Saturday] is a heck of a show, as far as variety,” Edwards said. He said that despite SummerFest being advertised as a music festival, it is not band-exclusive. Local dance and theater troupes will also grace the stage Saturday, including the Gypsy Divas and the American Laboratory Theatre.
Still, music makes up the bulk of the entertainment over the weekend. When it comes to finding acts for SummerFest, Edwards admits that the process is not cookie-cutter, but instead evolves as bands are contacted or contact him.
“My dream list morphs into the lineup,” Edwards said with a laugh. “I’ll contact a band, and their agent might say they can’t, but ‘you guys should listen to this band,’ and I end up listening to a band I’ve never heard before.”
Edwards said this year’s SummerFest lineup is highlighted by its diversity. Texan band Whiskey Shivers—who Edwards said describes themselves as “high energy trash-grass”—Oregonian electronica band Yak Attack, Seattle punk soul rockers Down North and many other bands with both local and non-local roots will perform throughout the weekend on one of two stages at the venue. Rather than experiencing a lull between sets, bands will play back-to-back on separate stages—something Edwards said keeps the environment consistently energetic. He also noted SummerFest’s kid-friendly nature, with the implementation of children’s activities throughout the weekend and a performance by the Grammy-nominated band Trout Fishing in America, known for their family-friendly tunes.
Holt stressed that the purpose of the music festival is not only to bring the community together beneath the basis of good music, food and company—it’s also one of the Eureka Institute’s major fundraisers. Proceeds go on to benefit the Construction Basics Initiative, a program that, according to the institute’s website, is meant to “provide under-served and at-risk students with the necessary life skill set and confidence in their ability to become a valued and productive part of society.” Young people who partake in the program learn to build and maintain infrastructure, while also serving the community.
“I feel like [the festival] brings community awareness,” Holt said, noting that SummerFest also serves to remind locals about what the Eureka Institute is doing for the area. Several local programs meant to promote connections with nature and community are the brainchildren of the Eureka Institute, with the Construction Basics Initiative barely scratching the surface.
Edwards said his favorite thing about SumemrFest is the sense of smallness, which provides the opportunity to get to know almost everyone in attendance once the weekend comes to an end.
“You’re with your community, you can dance front and center because everyone else is. You make friends and connections,” he said. “SummerFest is like fine wine—it gets better every year.”
SummerFest is July 8-10, 2016. Early-bird ticket rates are still available. Contact Steve Holt at the Eureka Institute at (208) 265-4000 or at (208) 597-6391.
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