By Marcia Pilgeram
I can’t wait for the opening performance of the Festival with Arlo Guthrie, and hopefully we’ll hear his famous anthem, “You can get anything you want from Alice’s Restaurant.” Most likely, you can get anything you want from one of the restaurants or food vendors set up on Festival Street.
I’ve heard great things about Wilco, and who doesn’t love Ziggy Marley? Great things are being said too, about Lake Street Dive. Rolling Stone called them “unexpected showstoppers.” Pair that performance with a cumin lime steak from Chameleon Cuisine and a glass of Woodward Canyon Cabernet for a tasty culinary showstopper of your own.
What makes our festival so special? From the first performance and the Brewfest (selections from thirty northwest microbrews) to last sparkle of fireworks with the Grand Finale featuring the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, it’s special. This is where we come to fill ourselves with music and food and summer love.
To learn more about this year’s festival, I contacted the dynamic Dino Wahl, Executive Director of the Festival at Sandpoint, and was delighted she carved some time out of her insane schedule to meet me and offer some insight about all things festival. Besides boundless energy and enthusiasm, I’m certain she has strands of festival entwined in her DNA. She’s been doing this a long time, and it’s apparent. Not only do I learn of the impressive musical line-up, Wahl rattles off vendor menus, statistics, and long lists of generous patrons and loyal volunteers. When I sing her praises about this well-oiled machine, Dino is quick to pay the accolades forward to her devoted staff and tireless board of directors. “It’s more than the music,” she explains. “It’s an incredible event that nourishes the stomach as well as the soul.” It’s true: Festival Street offers cuisine that’s as eclectic and diverse as the music, and you’ll find the perfect nourishment for noshing.
You’ll see lots of your favorite food vendors and some new ones as well. The Festival has worked hard to develop an equitable system with the food vendors, which is a mix between non-profit and for-profit. Vendors are chosen through a careful selection process, and you may not see your favorite this year because they are rotated every so often to give others a chance to participate. Those selected must meet strict health codes, cook in an approved kitchen and possess a food handler’s certificate. All service ware is recycled and must be compostable, a project overseen by Terra Cressey (the compost comes full circle and lands right back near the Festival’s office, in the community garden). There’s no room to expand, so the number of vendors on Festival Street is capped at thirteen and they pay a flat for-profit or non-profit rate for their space. Newcomers are guided through the hoops by veritable veterans Gary Peitz of Dish and Festival board member Dave Vermeer who also operates North Idaho Fish n’ Chips.
Just as the music appeals to different crowds, so too does the food. Shep Snow, Director of the Independence Race Team, says while his menu of nachos, burgers, and Polish and hot dogs appeals to all audience spectrums, they do especially well on country western and dance nights (a burger, beer and Vince Gill sounds like a pretty good match to me). Shep’s been doing this a long time (though they were rotated out a couple of years ago). Once he gets his crew lined up for the season, Shep reports the rest is oodles of fun.
There seems to be a lot of genuine camaraderie between the vendors, and while it’s a hectic hustle for them, they say they look forward to seeing their fellow festival vendors and customers from past years. Festival Street opens an hour before the first act, and closes when the headliners begin. Then the vendors earn a bit of down time, cleaning up, closing shop, and sharing one another’s food while listening to some great music.
Lisa Hooper, owner of Chameleon Cuisine, loves the electricity and excitement of the event as well as getting to please the patrons and their palettes. Last year she pleased more than the patrons—performers Nickel Creek asked for her food after their concert. “It was an honor,” shared Lisa.
Besides food, many great wines await you, especially during the Taste of the Stars wine tasting at the Grand Finale. At the bar, the wines carefully selected for purchase come from local Pend d’Oreille Winery, as well as varieties from Elk Cove, Woodward Canyon and Punto Final Wineries. And there’s a great beer line-up as well: Blue Moon, Alaskan Amber, Deschutes Mirror Pond and Miller Lite.
The Family Concert is all about packing up the kids and leaving the coolers behind. It’s an alcohol-free event where kids rule—and drool over the kid-friendly, fun fare, like the Kid’s Bar, where their contemporaries will be serving up popcorn, Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers. In addition, with the little adorables in mind, most of the food vendors will change up their menus, so be on the lookout for some kid-pleasing nibbles.
Since the Festival entrance rules changed last year, with a no running to save a spot in the grass policy, the pace to simultaneously fling your body and spread your quilt is no longer accomplished at a dead run. After getting spun in the crowd and the wind nearly knocked out of me in a prior rush of Pink Martini madness, I’m all for the slower pace. No longer will my neighbors wonder what that lady on the corner is up to now, and I won’t miss our family rehearsals on our lawn. Because no matter the technique, speed always wins over style. If you don’t have your tickets, hurry up and get them, and don’t forget to download the Festival’s brand new mobile app. Now, walk, don’t run to the Festival and set your sights on a seat and a great eat. I’ll see you there.
Vendors you’ll find on Festival Street:
Bulldog Band Booster – pizza and salads
Chameleon Cuisine by Liaison Catering— Chile lime edamame, cumin lime steak, herb salmon
DISH @ Dover Bay – poached prawns, strawberry Champagne salad, buff meatloaf
Eichardt’s – pulled pork sandwiches, pork or veggie tostada, peanut butter cups
Independence Ski Team – nachos, burgers, veggie burgers, Polish dog, hot dog
Ivano’s – chicken or prawn Caesar salad, grilled shrimp cocktails
Joe’s Philly Cheesesteak – Philly cheesesteak, chicken sandwich, salad
Little Olive – gyros, chicken/veggie kabobs, hummus appetizer, Greek salad, Spanakopita
May’s Catering – red curry chicken and rice, tofu, cashew chicken, pad Thai, chow mein, basil beef
North Idaho Fish n’ Chips – fish, prawns, chicken and chips, corn dog and chips, fries
Schweitzer – smoked pork or blackened fish tacos with chips and salsa
Evans Brothers – coffee
Panida Theater – ice cream
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