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Huckleberries by Day, Harmonies by Night

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it's Festival season again

From Trout Creek to Sandpoint, fun is part of the summer air this August. Yep, it's Festival time again - the Huckleberry Festival in Trout Creek along with the Festival at Sandpoint - two weeks of musical extravaganza under the stars. So stock up the coolers and load up the kids  and get ready to partake in some of the most spectacular days, and nights, of the season.

Trout Creek, MT- August 9 to August 11 marks the 23rd annual Huckleberry Festival in the beautiful community of Trout Creek, Montana, proclaimed by the Montana Legislature as the "Huckleberry Capital of Montana."

What started as a local turnout of artists and craftsperson's booths and a spot to sell huckleberries is now much more! A free, family event, the Huckleberry Festival includes live entertainment of many kinds, a huckleberry pancake breakfast, run/walk for fun, parade, chili cook-off, children's games, arts and crafts booths, exhibits, huckleberry dessert contest, displays and a family dance under the stars. Come experience down home fun!

The schedule of events kicks off on Friday the 9th at 4 pm with a Hula, Tahitian and other Polynesian dance demonstration, followed by a martial arts demonstration at 6. Then at 7, L'il Miss (ages 7 to 10) contestants will take the stage, to be followed by the Miss Huckleberry Pageant.

On Saturday, set an early alarm so you don't miss the Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast at the Fire Hall in Trout Creek. Experience the delectable combination of flapjacks and our local, finest fruit from 7 am until 11.

Once you're full of berries, head over to the Trout Creek Motel parking lot and work off those carbohydrates in the Run for Fun 5k race at 8:30 am. 

Once done running, don't rest too long because it's on to the corner of Hwy. 200 and Cedar Street for the 11 am parade, and then spend the afternoon at the Trout Creek School gym for the Huckleberry Jam - a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

If the athletic schedule of Saturday morning is a bit too much for you, relax at 1 am to the mellow sounds of the Swing Street Big Band (yep, that's former River Journal reporter Ben Silverman playing) and catch the Pet Parade at 2:30. There's just time for the Baby Parade at 2:45 before it's on to view auction items.

The auction starts at 3:30, and offers plenty of opportunity to empty out your wallet in a good cause.

For the evening, plan to take in the fiddling talents of Jennifer Peterson at 6 pm, followed by comedy and more from Dazzlin' Dave Oliver at 7 pm. Finally, you can wrap up Saturday dancing under the stars to classics and oldies by the Ron Lloyd Group.

The weekend's far from over, however, as Sunday kicks off with another Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast. There are booths and concessions open all day.

At 10 am, enjoy Texas Country Gospel with the award-winning One A Chord and Mike Culpepper. At 11, join an interfaith worship service with Native American Evangelist Maynard Lavelle.

Warm your arm up during lunch and be ready for the horseshoe contest at 1 pm - or head over to the canine search and rescue demonstration. From 2 to 5 enjoy traditional Celtic tunes with the Shaughnessy Hill Band and, at 4, top off the weekend with the Huckleberry dessert contest (followed by $1 samples).

Sandpoint, ID- The 20th annual Festival at Sandpoint opens August 1st and the excitement in the Festival Office is starting to mount. Diana "Dyno" Wahl, executive Director of the Festival, is the most excited. "(The) budget is awesome. (The festival) pulled out of debt in April after the wine tasting" she said beaming. 

Much good came out of last year's budget woes, with the board pulling together to learn from the bad year, financially, and set a course that hopefully will prevent a repeat. As of the third week in July both individual ticket sales and season ticket sales were setting records. Tickets at the Spokane outlets are also selling at record-setting rates.

The problems the Festival of Sandpoint overcame during the last year were a trend worldwide. "Many venues around the world had the same problems last year," Dyno said. "It's kind of the nature of the beast. Sometimes you have a bad year."

There will be some changes as a result of a task force that studied last year's financial situation. One change is one less classical concert. Another is that the orchestra for family day will be the Spokane Youth Symphony, directed by both Maestro Gary Sheldon and regular Youth Symphony director Verne Windham. Gary Sheldon and Bretta Beggs will be the pianists in Carnival of the Animals with Windham on the podium.

Another change this year is that all opening acts will be local musicians. This serves the community, the Festival's mission and budget, and is a good fit for everyone.

All the openers are well known locally and many have national and international experience. Singer/songwriter Charley Packard will kick off the season as he opens for Asleep at the Wheel, followed by Phat Baby Dave and the Painkillers, who will play their blues before Cherry Poppin' Daddies take the stage. Guitarist Mick Koon will open on the first Saturday, the hotly anticipated Keb Mo'.

The Performing Choir from Sandpoint High School, under the direction of Jon Brownel, will be one of the openers for Sunday's Family Concert. They were the winners of The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow and have been invited to perform at Disneyland next winter.

Jared Wagner, a young performer from Newport, will also open on Family Night.

Fresco with Conganya percussion will open the second week's slate of events. This is Brent Baker's Afro-Cuban group, and their incredible drumming will not only welcome David Lindley and Wally Ingram, but will highlight the complimentary microbrew tasting which starts at 6 pm.

On Friday, singer/songwriter Julie Stone opens for a former Festival favorite, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Julie is a regular at Coldwater Creek on Friday nights. Normally she's a solo act, but for the Festival she'll have a band backing her.

Shari Short, from Bonners Ferry, will open Saturday. Shari is a regular member of Air Supply, Saturday night's performers, so will return to the stage with them for the feature later that evening.

The "Grand" Finale will be the biggest ever. The first half will be Grieg and Dvorak. The second half will be all Gershwin, providing a little more of a "Pops" flavor. 

Aryan Reiner, a Sandpoint High School Senior, is the Coldwater Creek scholarship winner.

The signature tent that has protected the Festival performers from the elements has been replaced this year with a new one. It's only the fabric which is new however, as all the poles and rigging from the old tent will continue to support it. This insures the same look as before and at substantial savings. 

The past year has been a little different for the board. The fundraising committee continued with its function of raising funds for the next season. At the same time, the financial committee was working to retire the debt from last year. "The cart and the horse had to go forward side by side," Wahl said. This and all the money raised for the new tent last year stressed the donations from the area. The community has supported the Festival well, but the gifts from sponsors are a little off from other years. However, with ticket sales at a record pace, the Festival's finances are looking good.

The schedule for the 20th annual Festival at Sandpoint is; August 1, Asleep at the Wheel; Aug 2, Cherry Poppin' Daddies. For Super Saturday it's Mumbo Gumbo and Keb' Mo', and Sunday the 4th is the Family Concert starting at 4:30. Thursday, Aug. 8 will feature David Lindley and Wally Ingram. Friday the 9th is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, followed on Saturday with Air Supply. The "Grand" Finale is Sunday the 11th with complimentary "Taste of the Stars" Wine Tasting at 4:30. As always, the season will close with the traditional encore of American favorites and fireworks.

The excitement in the Festival office is deserved. Many obstacles have been overcome. No wonder Wahl, the board and the community are looking for a banner year under the stars at Memorial Field.

-By Ernie Hawks and Trish Gannon





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Sandpoint, Festival at Sandpoint, Huckleberry Festival, Trout Creek

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