“Man, this is beautiful up here, y’all!” That was Amy Ray, half of the Indigo Girls, last Thursday night as the Festival at Sandpoint opened its fourth decade on the shores of the confluence of the lake and river named for the Pend Oreilles, aka the Kalispels.
“We know!” you could almost hear the crowd thinking, with the rain holding back and the pine-covered hills across the water lit as the sun poked through.
“The Festival really celebrates our natural setting up here,” says Dyno Wahl, who has been the executive director of the Festival for 15 years now. “Nothing beats North Idaho: We’ve got everything.”
It was so beautiful, it even took a couple of Georgia girls by surprise.
Just down the road in Coeur d’Alene the very next day, it was Art on the Green’s weekend to shine, with 50,000-plus art lovers on hand. Celebrating its 45th year, it has spawned companion events that stretched all the way across City Park up along Sherman Avenue. The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre is of that same vintage, right there on the old Fort Sherman Grounds; this weekend, they kick off their final show of the season, 9 to 5. And Coeur d’Alene has added Ironman in late June, and this Labor Day weekend they’re bringing the hydroplane races back to the lake.
My grandfather Archie ran the Lakeview Court hotel in downtown Coeur d’Alene when I was a kid, right across the street from the beach. Even today, as I walk under that cooling canopy of trees on a hot day — as I did over the weekend — it puts a smile on my face, reminding me of running over there with all my cousins to play. I remember Art on the Green, but I really loved the Scottish Festival and Tattoo that ran from the 1950s through the ’70s. With a name like McGregor, watching those pipe bands and caber-tossers from all over Canada and the Pacific Northwest was pretty amazing. (Now there’s a festival somebody should revive.)
None of these events happen by themselves — “This only happens with all our volunteers,” says Wahl. “It may not always be obvious, but any given night, there are 300 volunteers out on that field.” It’s taken a couple generations of dedicated people to keep these institutions alive for so many years.
Back up in Sandpoint last Thursday, watching the osprey survey the crowd from high above the stage, and as the Indigo Girls alternated between the sweet harmonizing of Emily Saliers’ songs and the rock-star prophesizing of Amy Ray’s, it was the perfect North Idaho summer moment.
They said their final “Thanks, y’all!,” and fireworks marked the moment right up above our heads. And just then, as we moved to the exit, after a month of searing heat, nature provided the final encore as the skies opened up and rain started to fall on the happy crowd.