- You might come for the music, but the Festival at Sandpoint showcases the best of the town's culinary scene.
Around mid-May, Festival at Sandpoint fans anxiously drum their fingers for the upcoming season's musical lineup to be announced. Will Ben Harper be back again? Who's headlining? Will my kids like the Family Day offering?
The food lineup receives no less attention from festival planners, says Dave Vermeer, a Sandpoint restaurateur and co-chair of Festival Street, as the vendor section is called. The committee starts reviewing applications in February, balancing nonprofit and commercial businesses.
"We try to ensure there isn't any duplication in the food," Vermeer adds.
For example, although there are two pizza vendors, the menus are different. While Sandpoint High School partnered with Papa Murphy's to fundraise for the school's band program, Babs' Pizzeria will offer a meat or veggie stromboli, as well as a gluten-free sandwich version ($8).
The committee also encourages vendors to keep prices between $8 and $14 and offer a kids' menu during Family Day. One requirement that helps keep waste down is the use of recycled serving ware that is also compostable.
Although many vendors are repeat performers on the Festival's food lineup, the organizers use a rotation system to accommodate the abundance of applications.
Vermeer's North Idaho Fish & Chips is returning to the Festival — they've served for 20 out of the festival's 34 years — with his popular garlic fries ($4.50) or poutine ($8.75), which is fries smothered in gravy.
A newcomer this year is local wood-grilling products manufacturer Wildwood Grilling, which has an impressive 25-year history distributing smoking chips, skewers and cedar planks, including commemorative planks they're donating to the festival. You can also sample from their plank-grilled menu, including wild-caught Alaskan salmon ($12), chicken satays ($12) and grilled peaches with ice cream ($6).
If cheering for your favorite band leaves you a bit parched, check out the festival's two full bars for a modestly priced regional beer, glass of wine or mixed drink.
"Even more unusual for a festival," adds executive director and longtime festival booster Dyno Wahl, "you're allowed to bring your own cooler including any food and beverage... but why would you?" ♦
Other vendors: Angels Over Sandpoint, Arlo's, Eichardt's, Independence Ski Team, Joe's Philly Cheesesteak, Jupiter Jane's, May's Catering, Evans Brothers, Panida Theater.