When Mother Nature removed the heating iron from the Northern Rockies last week, she did so just in time for one of Hailey's biggest parties of the year.
The Northern Rockies Folk Festival, held for 29 years the first weekend in August, attracted a vast crowd of music lovers to Hop Porter Park in Hailey Friday and Saturday. Organizers Pete Kramer and Kit Neeras shook their heads in amazement when it was all over. "Went off without a hitch," Kramer said.
On Friday, the valley's own bluegrass specialists, Public Radio, opened the festival, followed by a rousing performance by the Canadian Celtic-bluegrass group The Clumsy Lovers. Many folks in the valley have seen this high-octane quintet play in clubs, but their way with a song in the great outdoors was a revelation. Andrea Lewis, the band's female fiddler, wowed the crowd with her expansive playing style, white summer dress and stomping red boots.
Country music star Rodney Crowell headlined Friday, showing that years of experience amount to quite a bit. Tight, heavy on talent and playing like a man half his age, Crowell and his band, the Outsiders, kept the park dancing into the night. A genuinely nice man, Crowell chatted afterwards with fans and friends.
On Saturday, the opening act, six valley students who range from just-graduated to sophomore level, played as Kelsey Barrow and Friends. Barrow played a few cover songs but especially impressed with her original tunes, sparkling voice and confident stage presence.
From the future to the long-time, Headwaters picked up as the next act. Based in Stanley, they've been entertaining in Idaho for many years. However, the band's young fiddler is leaving Idaho for Austin, Texas, where he'll most likely turn up on stage with Micky and the Motorcars.
The young Pagosa Springs, Colo., band Hot Strings showed that they continue to grow and mature musically as well as personally. In particular, mandolin player Josiah Payne is quite the musician to watch.
As people poured into the park, vendors did brisk business selling pork sandwiches, barbecue fare and pies, with proceeds going to local nonprofit groups.
Come evening, the Kim Stocking Band rallied the troops with a lively set, before the headliners, the Bonedaddys, came on with a mix of Latino and Afro beats and good, old-fashioned original rock. The band showed why they are known as a dance party band.
A local man brought huge, expansive garden-grown flowers each night and handed them out to ladies dancing near the stage. Flowers swayed in outstretched hands and were seen flying onto the stage. It was one of those sweet, small-town touches, and sort of summed up the exceptional pride and sense of fun the festival-goers had. Yet again.