For 38 years, from 1977 through 2015, the Wood River Valley was home to one of the premier music festivals in the Intermountain West, the Northern Rockies Music Festival. For decades, Hailey’s Hop Porter Park hosted local and travelling musical acts alike in a two-day festival.
In 2016, however, the volunteer board that organized the festival each year reluctantly announced the event’s indefinite cancellation. Competition from other music festivals, rising costs of production and the proliferation of free musical performances throughout the valley were cited as reasons.
The absence of the annual festival resulted in a gaping hole through the valley’s August calendar, meaning that subsequent summers ended with mere fizzles rather than triumphant bangs.
That musical privation was what finally inspired valley resident Luke Henry—founder of DrSwanMusic LLC—to establish a new festival, titled Summer’s End.
“I felt like there was something missing in the valley for the few years the Folk Fest was gone,” he said—the Northern Rockies Music Festival was formerly named the Northern Rockies Folk Festival. “That was my inspiration to bring it back, to make an end-of-summer sendoff celebration.”
Henry has booked more than 30 bands to participate in the inaugural Summer’s End Music Festival.
Days of music build up to the main event. Yesterday, Aug. 20, saw the first of these Road to Summer’s End engagements with a trifecta of bands—Hurdy Gurdy Girls, Woven and the Mia Edsall Band—taking over The Red Shoe in Hailey.
The fun picks back up tonight, Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Warfield Brewery in Ketchum with live music by Van Lavish from 8-11 p.m. On Thursday, music lovers can head over to the Sawtooth Brewery Taphouse in Hailey for some rocking tunes by Aaron Golay & The Original Sin from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. Then the Road to Summer’s End nears its final destination with a concert by Chuckie Campbell at Whiskey Jacques’ in Ketchum and Lost Ox at the Silver Dollar Saloon in Bellevue, both of which begin at 10 p.m. on Friday.
All the “Road to …” events are presented without a cover charge except the finale at Whiskey Jacques’. Tickets to the live hip-hop show by Chuckie Campbell—who comes to the valley all the way from Buffalo, N.Y.,—are available online for $8, or at the door for $10. Doors open at Whiskey Jacques’ at 9 p.m.
Those who refrained from staying out too late and partying too hard on Friday night can enjoy breakfast at Black Owl Coffee in Hailey with live music by Steph Sloan and the Michaela French band starting at 9 a.m.
Later that day, festivalgoers can stop by The Mint in Hailey for a Mid-Day Special performance by The Pisten Bullys, from 3-5 p.m.
Though concerts take place all week, the main festival lasts one day, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24, in Hailey’s Lions Park. A dozen bands have joined Henry’s roster: The Shook Twins, Hillstomp, Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, Lounge on Fire, The Weary Times, Lost Ox, The Pan Handles, Andrew Sheppard, Aaron Golay & The Original Sin, High Mtn. Heard and Secuestrado.
In addition to all these musical acts, the festival will feature beverages, food, arts and crafts vendors, workshops, yoga, activities for children, raffles and a silent auction. Prizes include hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates and tickets for the 2020 Sawtooth Valley Gathering in Stanley, to name just a few.
For those who still have some partying left to do by the festival’s conclusion, The Red Shoe will host a few late-night sets with music by Loaded Crow, Jac Sound and Blakadaar.
The following day will see a special Sunday after-party at Mahoney’s Bar and Grill in Bellevue. From 3:30 p.m. onward, Mahoney’s will host a free, family-friendly, outdoor show by Permafunk, Andrew Shappard and Friends, and Bear Basin Boogaloo.
All totaled, the Summer’s End roster boasts nearly as many bands as the Northern Rockies Music Festival boasted years. Even though the organization of this event—which Henry pulled off in a whirlwind two and a half months—required a tremendous amount of effort, Henry hopes he will have occasion to repeat the festival in future years.
“I’m hoping that this year works out great and we can keep running with it,” he said. “I got events in Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum. I tried to make the whole community involved. I feel like the only way for this event to get fully off the ground is to give recognition to those local business who’ve kept bringing music in all these years and are keeping the music scene alive.”
Liveliness will be in no short supply in the valley this week, with six days of top-notch music by local bands and roving troubadours from Idaho and beyond. With such an impressive lineup, Summer’s End leaves little doubt that it will fill the void left by the end of the Northern Rockies Music Festival.
Tickets for the Saturday festivities can be purchased in person at Moss Garden Center in Ketchum, the Sawtooth Brewery in Hailey and Mahoney’s Bar and Grill in Bellevue or online at eventbrite.com.
For more information on the festival, visit drswanmusicllc.com/summer-s-end.