By BRENT RUSSELL
When I answered the ad, “Investors wanted for WRV music festival,” I had no idea what lay ahead. I met the organizer, Zach Peterson, and offered to help. I’m a fairly traditional guy: a local doctor, in my 20th year of marriage, a Hemingway dad. I’m boring and moderate.
MASSV seemed like an exciting way to attract youth to the community I love, a way to give back. Zach and I worked hard, but the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming locomotive. Less than three months before the event, Zach and his wife, Courtney, were killed in an auto accident. I canceled the event. Their families asked me to continue. I un-canceled, sprinted to the finish, and we held the first MASSV: Music and Art Showcase of Sun Valley.
In the days after, I was conflicted. Some of the excessive partying made me uncomfortable. A few artists had negative messages. We lost significant money. An accident seriously injured a policeman.
But the first large-scale local music event targeting the under-30 crowd had amazing potential, a creative festival made by, and for, the amazing folks of the WRV. The energy and unbridled joy were contagious. We did it for Zach and Courtney.
After several locals volunteered, I decided to try again. Sun Valley Co. agreed to help. We wanted to be relevant for young adults, while being positive and healthy. We are well-meaning locals, and the concerns of our community will be remedied to the best of our ability.
We thought having the event in a low spot would prevent sound travel. We were wrong, and I apologize to those bothered by the noise. If we decide to continue with MASSV, we will turn it down and end earlier, probably on a slower weekend, and possibly in a different location.
This year, I met with the Drug Coalition, brainstorming. I spoke with every Wood River High School class about drugs and alcohol. The first night, I cringed as a few artists violated our “Rated PG” contract. We instructed them to cease while they were still performing. The second night, we told all artists that we would cut sound if they violated their contract, and it worked.
We would prefer that MASSV—and our schools, streets, and ski slopes—be free of intoxication and abuse. About a tenth of 1 percent were seen in our ER for intoxication, three per day. To put this in perspective, yesterday, on a random weekday, I saw three intoxicated people in our ER. To judge a group on the behavior of one in a thousand is harsh judgment, and any group or event would wither under that level of scrutiny.
Senior Ketchum Police Officer Dave Kassner said, “Ninety-nine percent of the attendees were polite and respectful, more so than many local music events.” The police did an awesome job.
The overwhelming majority of festival-goers were clear-eyed and smiling. We welcomed new people to our town. We held a full minute of silence for Zach and Courtney late Saturday night, and you could have heard a pin drop: an astonishingly polite group.
Our Facebook page is overrun with comments like, “This was my favorite weekend of the year! I will return to Ketchum!” Our valley is amazing, and we need to share it with young adults, or we will slowly fade to black. The youth are our future.
Idaho has never seen anything like MASSV, and I’m proud of our team’s creativity and hard work. It was an amazing event. Those who experienced it know.
Brent Russell is one of the chief organizers of MASSV, the Music and Art Showcase of Sun Valley, which was held in Ketchum July 5-6.