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The Festival's First Family

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The Festival's First Family

The Englands make it all come together

     Like mother, like daughter, like father, like son, like sister, like brother—The Festival at Sandpoint has always been a family affair. However the Englands take it a step further. Their entire family shows up for two weeks in August to help put the Festival together and Jonathon and Jeani England, the mom and the dad, have been the site managers for the last five years.
    Jeani knew Production Manager David Nygren from working in other venues and David asked her aboard for the Festival. She brought Jonathon with her and, after only one year on the crew, the husband and wife team stepped into their current position. “Everything you see when you walk (on the field) we are responsible for,” said Jonathon. Jeani added, “A lot of people are surprised we can work so well together. His strengths are my weaknesses and the other way around.”
    They do work well, and hard, but both are quick to give credit to the entire production crew for the quality of the work. “We are such a tight group we can finish each others’ sentences,” said Jonathon.
    One member of the crew that isn’t back this year is daughter Jessaca. She is doing midterms in Florida, working to become a massage and sports therapist. Jessaca was a member of the crew with her parents for the three years previous to this one. Her brother Jeramiah has worked night security for two years and on the load-in—load-out crew for three. Younger brother Jasiah has been on the load-in—load-out crew for one year and was a volunteer for two years before.
    That’s the family as the Festival knows them. Last year they all moved to Florida to be near Jessaca in college, but that didn’t keep them from working the Festival this year—the family took vacation time in order to come back and work with the Festival crew. Except for Jessaca, that is, so she calls from Florida a couple of times each night. Jeani stands in front of the stage and holds up the phone. You might say the kid is living vicariously through her parents. Really she misses the fun.
    Not only is Jessaca in school, but her dad is also working on his electrical license while they are there. They didn’t come right out and say they are going to move back to Sandpoint, where they had lived for six years, but they still call it home.
    Good friend and boss at the Festival David Nygren made a point of taking me aside to talk when he saw I was visiting with them for this story. “They take ownership, a pride in their job,” he said. “They don’t just do, they teach and leave something learned.” His respect for his site managers was obvious.
    “Before we started and put this crew together, they were using a bigger crew that took longer to do the job,” said Jeani. “(This crew) really are the ones that keep us coming back.”
    It seems the camaraderie and professionalism of the crew goes deep. A few days before the Festival was to start they got a call that weather was coming in. Do you remember the big winds that blew through last week?
    The crew was taking a break at one of the tables when they received word. “Everyone got up and went a different direction,” said Jonathon. ”Yeah, nobody gave directions or made a plan,” Jeani added. “We all just went to work and battened everything down. Everything was done in about 15 minutes. We kind of amazed ourselves.”
    I have been around this Festival for several years now and one thing I have noticed is how smooth the production crew functions. It seems the managers have faith and give great freedom to the crew, and the crew has the respect to accept the responsibility that goes with it.  They create a venue that is the Festival at Sandpoint experience for both the artists and audience.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

Festival at Sandpoint, Jonathan England, Jeani England, Jessaca England, Dave Nygren, Jeramiah England, Jasiah England, production crew

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