By SABINA DANA PLASSE and DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writers
It was a rainy Friday evening at the start of the Kick Ash Bash weekend in Ketchum, but the music played on, culminating with one of town's largest concerts ever.
Regardless of the downpour early in the evening on Saturday in the Ketchum Town Plaza, the bands Paul Cox and Friends and Jeremiah James played to a few hearty souls enjoying treats from stands manned by folks from Trail Creek Pub, KB's, H & G catering and Heidi's Hofbrauhaus.
The Kick Ash Bash, despite a distinct chill, lured people for food, camaraderie and music. Booths promoted the Kick Ash Bash, Ketchum Community Wi-Fi, YMCA, and Wildland Fire Association, while Rotarians hawked ducks for the Roasted Duck Race, an event salvaged from the cancelled Great Wagon Days Duck Race. Inflatable games, face painting and more activities kept kids warm and busy. Music was provided by Four Stroke Bus, Sheryll Mae Grace and the Heaters. Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall clipped a blue cable at about 3 p.m. to signal that the Ketchum Community Wi-Fi was up and running.
Sidewalks were full of spillover items from sales all around Ketchum, and special trunk shows lured customers in for treats. These included PUREcolor trunk show at Silver Creek Outfitters and Kari Kjesbo's reconstructed Chanel jewelry show at Burnsie's Boca.
A bright yellow duck mascot led a crowd up to Walnut Avenue at 4 p.m. for the Roasted Duck Race, made possible by a cement duck, water and a gutter, which allowed hundreds of ducks to float down a makeshift aqueduct. More than 15,000 ducks were purchased. Grahber Construction won the grand prize.
As Saturday activities continued, Ketchum swelled to capacity as thousands descended on town for the feature event, the Castle Rock Firefighter's Benefit Concert in Sun Valley's Festival Meadows. The Sun Valley Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the city of Ketchum, along with ticket sales help by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, threw what turned out to be the area's largest party ever. In all 5,000 tickets were pre-sold, and another 1,000 were complimentary to firefighters and law enforcement.
"Once again it underscores the great community we live in that Steve Miller, Carole King and Bruce Willis were willing to donate their time and talents for this cause," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said. "Secondly, we wanted to send the firefighters throughout Idaho, who came to help us in our time of need, our gratitude and appreciation. And lastly, we wanted to raise some money for those same firefighters. I think we were extremely successful on all levels. Also, it was great seeing thousands of people walking around town. I want again to thank The Center for the arts and the chamber for a job well done."
Concert-goers came prepared for action, bundled-up and ready to stand for hours in the cold if necessary. Akin to the feeling residents used to experience at concerts at Trail Creek, the party celebrated the community spirit that pervaded through much of August when the Castle Rock Fire threatened the Wood River Valley.
While working the gates, Sun Valley Center for the Arts Executive Director Sam Gappmayer said he could not be more thrilled about the turnout for the show. The parking and shuttle service worked well, and hundreds helped by choosing to walk.
"Everything went very, very well, and there were no negative events," said Ketchum Fire Department Capt. Tom Ancona. "It was a great turnout. At the firefighter ticket booth for the comp tickets we saw a lot of out-of-town firefighters who came in for the event. There was a real sense of brotherhood among the firefighters and people who helped out. They came from all the surrounding towns and areas, to the south as far as the Nevada border. It was nice to see people from all over come back to support the firefighters."
The Bruce Willis Blues Band opened the show, juicing up the crowd with covers of great rock hits by the Rolling Stones and others. A part-time Hailey resident, Willis beamed from ear to ear as the crowd warmed up to his music.
Legendary singer-songwriter Carole King, who lives near Challis, was next to take the stage. The audience swayed and joined her by belting out lyrics to such classics as "Natural Woman," "If You Lead I Will Follow" and a very powerful "I Feel the Earth Move." King expressed gratitude and praise for the community.
When the headliner, the Steve Miller Band, hit the stage the dancing hit a raucous level. Miller played his new Bolin guitar, painted with a rendition of the Castle Rock Fire, firefighters and Bald Mountain. Miller, who lives north of Ketchum, presented other custom-made guitars to Castle Rock Fire Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, who came from California for the weekend, and Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle.
In an uncharacteristic moment Pincha-Tulley appeared at a loss for words, but immediately donated the gift back to the firefighters' cause and asked that it be auctioned off at the annual Fireman's Ball. Proceeds from the benefit concert will go to the Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association, which covers all Wood River Valley departments and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
Miller and his band played many of his best-known tunes including "Fly Like An Eagle," "The Joker" and "Take the Money and Run." Miller thanked the firefighters and the community. He was joined by King to finish the show with versions of his "Swingtown" and "Jet Airliner," both odes to great home towns.
"It was big time," said the Sun Valley Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau public relations manager Bronwyn Patterson.
Patterson said there were presentations of $15,000 checks to the Wildland Fire Fighter Foundation and the Ketchum Sun Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association. Further, a $10,000 check was given anonymously by community members to buy a new command center for Pincha-Tulley's Team 3, which is based in California.
In town, "business was good," said Tom Nickel owner of Sawtooth Club and the Roosevelt Tavern on Main Street. "I think the concert helped. Our bar business was definitely up for the weekend. We were busy before the concert. People were waiting for dinners, then a lull during the show and then quite a rush afterward, starting at about 11 p.m. All of Main Street got hit pretty good."
Sunday was a crisp, sunny fall day that induced hikers and bikers to proudly hit the trails. Around town there was the Blaine County Democrat's barbecue and a book signing party by Cristina Cook of Cristina's Restaurant in Ketchum. While happily signing stacks of her new book, "Cristina's Tuscan Table," she served delicacies featured in her book including an out of this world pumpkin tiramisu dessert, a sweet ending to memorable weekend of community.