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One of the best ways to get to know a new area is to attend one of their local festivals or fairs. You will not only get a sense of the community, but you have the privilege of enjoying world-class entertainment.
Held at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater & Reserve, theater lovers gather every September at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival to enjoy magic and drama in a 770-seat outdoor theater that is surrounded by nature. Come for the words and stay for the native plants and glimpses of fox, deer, and geese.
The Campfire Theatre Festival is the newest on the scene. Held in Boise, the organizers view this three-day festival of staged readings of new plays and workshops as a way of creating a true theater hub in Boise.
Among the most famous of the music festivals is the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Celebrated every July, the University of Idaho in Moscow is filled with the sounds of Jazz and has been since 1967. Reportedly the largest Jazz festival found west of the Mississippi River, this North Central Idaho staple features seminars, workshops, and of course, terrific Jazz.
Another big event for Jazz lovers is the Gene Harris Jazz Festival in Boise every March. For the last 15 years, fans have been flocking to Boise to hear performances by Jazz greats from all around the United States, as well as to attend clinics and student competitions.
If you find yourself in Weiser, in Southwest Idaho, you will find yourself in what is known as “The Fiddle Capitol of the World.” It is said to have been given that moniker after the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival became popular – more than 60 years ago. Every June, you can sit back and enjoy fiddlers from around the globe as they come together for a competition that has been dubbed the “Superbowl of Fiddling.”
The Festival at Sandpoint in early August celebrates a wide range of music, including Folk, Classical Symphonic, Blues, Jazz, and Pop music. Crowds have gathered at Memorial Field to hear artists from all around the world since 1983.
Arts and Crafts Festivals
Boise Art Museum plays host to the annual Art in the Park festival. Held after Labor Day each year, this outdoor festival introduces visitors to the work of more than 200 artists.
Lewiston Dogwood Festival brings the crowds to town every April to celebrate the arts. Within the festival, you can see the hand-crafted works of artisans, a quilt show, gourmet food, beer, and wine tasting and a hugely popular dog show.
History and Heritage Festivals
If you have ever been curious about the history of the lumberjack, this annual mid-September event in Orofino will answer your questions. Set by the Clearwater River, this family-friendly event features an auction, carnival, and kiddie parade, along with a log show, hot sawing, tree topping, ax throwing, and much more.
If the history of the cowboy grabs your imagination, the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho in mid-July is a “must.” This event has been drawing crowds for nearly 100 years. Here, you can see the skills of the world’s best cowgirls and cowboys in action. You can see team roping, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, and more.
In early August each year, the Three Island Crossing event sees horses and riders recreating the pioneer wagon train crossings of the Snake River. Crowds descend on this Glenns Ferry event to celebrate the journey, while enjoying arts and crafts, a parade, musical entertainment, and a barbecue, among many other events.
In mid-August, Fort Hall welcomes visitors to the annual Shoshone Bannock Indian Festival and has for more than 40 years. This is a celebration of Native American cultures which includes an art show, dances, crafts, and an all-Native American rodeo.
In mid-September, people travel to Shelly for Idaho Spud Day. This event remains hugely popular more than 83 years after its inception. It features a parade, music, a Dutch oven cook-off, free baked potatoes, and competitions, perfect for the whole family.
The Trailing of the Sheep is an October event that has received the Idaho Governor’s “Award for Outstanding Cultural Heritage Tourism.” Why? This Sun Valley event features numerous cultural programs and activities relating to the history of sheep ranching in Idaho. It includes story-telling, poetry reading, music, and workshops on weaving, spinning and cooking. They also include a look at the Scottish and Basque heritage here. The event ends with a parade, and guests are welcome to follow the local herders and their flock into downtown Ketchum. Not a sight you see every day!
The Idaho Winter Carnival has been celebrating the winter season for more than 40 years. From the end of January through early February, visitors and locals flock to McCall for the annual Snow Sculpting Championship, the Grand Bingo and Monte Carlo Night, and the Mardi Gras Grand Parade, among many other fun events.
If your travels being you to Driggs in early July, be sure to stop by the Teton Valley Summer Festival. Events include a popular parade, rodeo, bike races, and a golf tournament. There are fiddler’s contests and a craft fair. But the main attraction is the hot air balloon rides and more than 30 hot air balloon races that are held over the four days of the festival. It’s quite a sight to see!
You can find summer fairs throughout the Gem State. If you love fair food, rides, games, Country music and rodeos, an Idaho summer fair is the place for you. Choose to visit Canyon County Fair in Caldwell for a terrific time that also includes watermelon eating contests for the kids. The Eastern Idaho State Fair includes all of the festivities above but also puts a real focus on livestock shows, which is where it saw its beginnings in 1902. Meanwhile, the fun at the Jerome County Fair also includes a magic show and thrilling PRCA rodeo events.