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Bob Boyle

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Bob Boyle

Music, birds and 30 years of the Festival at Sandpoint

During the traditional first two weekends of August, the Festival at Sandpoint will celebrate 30 years of bringing world-class music to this small town stage with a stellar line-up that has tickets flying out the door.

Those 30 years were not inevitable, and at times, the Festival at Sandpoint has stood at the brink of extinction. But each time, the community has rallied around, its volunteer board of directors has gone to work raising money, and the Festival has provided music under the stars each and every year.

Local CPA Bob Boyle is the current president of the board for the Festival at Sandpoint, and he took some time to answer a few questions about what can rightly be called one of Sandpoint’s premiere institutions.


Q.  Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Who is Bob Boyle, anyway? 

A. Like so many here, I’m a California  transplant originally. I have lived and worked in Sandpoint for 17 years with my wife Francesca and our multiple pets. My business is accounting; I have been a CPA for many years and enjoy what I do from 9 to 5. Many of my clients view me much the same as they do their dentist—with fear and anxiety. To partially offset that hard part of my day job I spend much of my free time pursuing activities that allow me to bring some joy to others.  

Q. When and why did you get involved with the Festival at Sandpoint? 

A. I wished to give something back to the community that has given us so much. The Festival represents the kind of community support that brings prosperity, both financial and emotional, to folks of all ages; it just fits my model for meaningful participation. My good friend and fellow board member, Curt Hagen, coaxed me onto the Board of Directors in 2008 and I have never looked back. What a super bunch of people.

Q. There’s a lot of excitement about this year’s lineup. Why don’t you always book a season like this?

A. When engaging entertainment, the fact is it is sometimes the luck of the draw. The most challenging factors in securing great acts include availability, price, fan appeal, and good judgment about fan preferences; everybody wants something a little different.

One thing most people don’t know is how expensive it is to book artists. Many of the names that float around in people’s wish lists would cost us more money than we spend on the entire eight-night season. So that’s the first limitation on who we book—what we can afford to pay. As a singular venue (just one performance by the performer) we can’t negotiate the multiple-appearance deals that year-round music venues like The Knitting Factory or area casinos can hammer out. 

Q. Why do the tickets cost so much? I’d love to see Alison Krauss, but $60? 

A. Good entertainment is costly and our venue is relatively small; we can accommodate only 3,500 people on the field including volunteers. So we can’t cover all of our costs through ticket sales. In fact, the money raised by ticket sales only covers about half of our operating budget. The balance of the money we need to raise comes from grants, sponsors, patrons, and fundraising activities like the annual Wine Tasting Auction. Obviously, if we had to pay for the Festival just with ticket sales, the tickets would cost twice as much. Luckily, our community recognizes and appreciates what the Festival brings to this area. Without their continued financial support, however, there would be no Festival at Sandpoint.

Q. I remember when the Festival was pretty much bankrupt. Is it on a firm financial footing now? 

We have had our financial ups and downs. We are presently solvent and are anticipating another operating  surplus for the current year based on the early sales we’re seeing for tickets, and the amazingly generous support of our sponsors even in the face of a less-than-booming economy. Since we are a non-profit organization, any surplus is reinvested back into the exempt purposes.

Our board is fairly conservative, and we have a strong commitment to maintaining a rainy day fund that is literally a hedge against rainy days. Because we do rely on ticket sales for a substantial portion of our revenue, bad weather can have a huge impact on the budget. Poor weather just a couple of years ago required us to use all of our ‘rainy day fund’ to stay solvent. We are now in the process of building that fund up again.

Q. Blaine Stevens served for many decades on the school board, an unpaid position involving a lot of work much like your own on the Festival’s board. He used to say that handing out diplomas was how he got paid. How do you get paid for all your work?

A. My payback experience is looking out over a Saturday night performance and taking in all those mesmerized faces that reflect the hard work that goes into creating this exciting occasion.

Q. You mentioned those “wish lists” of people to perform at the Festival. Who is on your wish list of people you’d like to see at Memorial Field?

A. My wish list has gotten much shorter with this year’s lineup. My list includes just what our Festival family says they want to see; we’ll do all we can to make that happen. I only need those  happy faces on Saturday night.   

Q. What do you see in the Festival’s future?  

A. Our design is to be responsive to the community we are here to serve by providing a concert series that supports cultural tourism. We are also committed to the educational component of our mission statement, and will continue to support and expand education programs for our youth. This is particularly important as funding for arts programs for children continues to get tighter. Most importantly, we want to continue growing the Festival family at all levels of the community. And, of course, there will be a lot more great music!

The Festival is quite appreciative of our location, and we will continue to work with the City of Sandpoint and other partners to help improve the quality of Memorial Field. We are excited that the field’s resident osprey have taken to the new light poles, and that they can be viewed live through the “osprey cam” set up by the city and Sandpoint Online (you can see it online at www.sandpointonline.com/ospreys or, better yet, buy a ticket to a show and watch the nest live at our information booth!). 

The plans for future improvements at the field are exciting, and we will support those efforts however we can. Currently, a dollar from every ticket sale is going into the fund for improvements at the field. You can learn more about what’s being planned, and how you can help support it, online at FriendsofMemorialField.com.

Q. Any final thoughts you want to share?  

A. We are excited to announce the engagement of the University of Idaho School of Business to conduct an economic impact study for the Festival. Members of the team from the college will be on site at the field this season asking questions - we hope people will take the time to answer and help us gather information about the Festival at Sandpoint. It will be fun to see just how much impact we really have. Finally, tickets for this year’s line-up are going fast; now is the time to buy. You can purchase tickets online at our website, www.FestivalatSandpoint.com.

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Landon Otis

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Homepage, Headlines, Festival at Sandpoint, Bob Boyle, University of Idaho School of Business, Osprey Cam, Friends of Memorial Field

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