It's Will Caldwell's firm belief that every summer night counts.
"We should be out and about and dancing in the shadow of Baldy and under the stars every chance we get," said the founder of three of summer's most popular free music mainstays in Ketchum. "Summer is sooo short. We can't afford not to play it to the hilt every night."
The solstice may technically affirm summer's presence, but the sounds of music wafting across downtown from most any direction and the assemblage of friends and families at three of the town's parks is the official gesture.
"We've sure got a fun summer planned," he said. "If you look at the variety in the mix, you can be pretty sure there will always be something new and upbeat going on."
Concerts are made possible—and remain free—thanks to on-site donations and passionate music lovers and a few key sponsors—the city of Ketchum, Cox, Atkinsons' Markets, High Country Properties, My Sun Valley Home, Barry Peterson Jewelers and D.L. Evans Bank.
First to start up is Town Square Tunes, which was founded to give life to a new centrally located gathering space with a stage adjacent to LeRoy's Ice Cream across from Atkinsons' Market. It was broken in last Friday night with members of the upcoming production of "Fame" and local talent who stepped up to an open mic night.
Mia and the Blue Horses is slated to open the series with cowgirl songs on Thursday, June 21; bluegrass with Dewey Pickett & Howe, June 28; a mountain bikers party with El Stashe, July 5; original songs by Cake Face Jane, July 12; the Matsiko, an international orphan children's choir, July 19; rockin' Americana with Stonewheat, July 26; new age music with Jam Nation, Aug. 2; original and cover tunes with All Night Diner, Aug. 9; Six at Sochi Ski Foundation Party, Aug. 16; folk tunes with Up a Creek, Aug. 23; with the final Thursday to be announced. All concerts run from 6-8 p.m.
Around this time last year, hearts were broken with the death of local philanthropist Dale Fowler, who was killed in a car accident on June 28, 2011. She was the sole sponsor of the Jazz in the Park series, which is squeaking by on donations this year, but still needs help with the $2,000 annual fee it requires to put on.
But it will go on and this year is talent packed.
"This is the best jazz in Idaho," Caldwell beamed. "Musicians love coming here and playing outdoors."
The series starts with Jeff Rew and friends with Boise's Chuck Smith on piano, June 24; Idaho Falls Jazz House Big Band, July 1; Sun Valley/Boise Latin Jazz Ensemble, July 8; Alan Pennay and Cheryl Morrel, July 15; Sun Valley/Boise Latin Jazz Ensemble, July 22; and finally Tyia Wilson and friends, July 29. Wilson has an album in production that should be ready by her appearance, Caldwell said.
And finally is the festival that started it all, Ketch'Em Alive, an idea that spun from the loss of similar parties at Trail Creek.
These parties start at 7 p.m. with reggae by Florida's Rising Lion, June 26; celtic rock from Salt Lake City with Swagger, July 3; Colorado bluegrass with Good Gravy, July 10; Matsiko, an international orphan children's choir, July 17; New Orleans funk by Billy Franklin Band, July 24; Americana stomp grass with Polecat, July 31; valley dance party with The Heaters, Aug. 7; roots music from Jackson, Wyo., with the Chanman Band, Aug. 14; and rock cover band Str8up, Aug. 21.
All music is subject to change, but only weather can stop the music.
"It's a precious experience with parents dancing with their children," Caldwell said. "In my dreams, this is what I imagined."
Town Square Tunes 2012
Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. in Ketchum Town Square starting June 21 through Aug. 30.
Jazz in the Park 2012
Sundays, 6-8 p.m. in Rotary Park across from the Wood River Y starting June 24 through July 29.
Ketch'Em Alive 2012
Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m. in Ketchum's Forest Service Park starting June 26 through Aug. 21.
*Organizers explain bands are subject to change and in that event, they will notify the paper asap. Check the Express weekly calendar listing for the bands playing each event.
* Picnics and low-back chairs encouraged.