Words & Deeds

Michael Deeds: Look out, rural Mountain Home. Here come 17,000 country fans

Michael Deeds
Michael Deeds

Two massive, metallic sculptures — one of a banjo, another of a rearing horse — greet fans at the entry gates of the Mountain Home Country Music Festival. The symbolism is perfect for the July 31-Aug. 2 event, which is taking over 1,000 acres of ranchland through the weekend.

It’s gonna be a little twangy out there. But it’s also gonna be a little bit wild stallion.

A large, barbed-wire sculpture of a dollar sign also would work. Camping passes sold out in advance. Coors Light is going to flow like rivers at $6 per 16-ounce cup. Organizers expect 15,000 to 17,000 bodies each day. The inaugural festival, put on by retailer Bi-Mart, already appears to be on a dusty trail to a successful future.

“We are pretty excited,” admits festival president Anne Hankins.

Hankins calls using her cell phone, because all seven office phones are ringing off the hook. Her voice is easygoing and cheerful. The Mountain Home bash will use the same basic footprint as its two well-organized sister events, she explains: the Willamette Country Music Festival in Brownsville, Ore., in its eighth year, and the Cape Blanco Country Music Festival in Sixes, Ore., in its second year.

“We have all the luxuries of a typical event with lots of beautiful scenery,” Hankins says. “So there are ATMs on site, a mobile hospital, the Elmore County Sheriffs are on site. We have over 8,000 man-hours of security on site. We have more EMS on site than the county has on any given weekend, that we’ve brought in. We have a Life Flight helicopter.

“We have it covered,” Hankins says. “This is not our first rodeo.”

The major hurdle this first year, Hankins says, hasn’t involved the logistics of building a gated, 1,000-foot-wide concert venue on ranch property about 30 miles up Idaho 20 from Mountain Home. Or erecting fencing that would stretch the length of 14 football fields.

The challenge has been trying to teach Idahoans precisely what this festival entails. It’s more than just the headliners: Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line. It’s 3 1/2 days of festival environment.

“My biggest excitement is to see people when they finally live it,” Hankins says, “and then they understand what it is.”

There will be a learning curve. Heat, dehydration and exhaustion can crush newbies at these types of good-times marathons.

Festivalgoers will be able to take two bottles of factory-sealed water into the concerts. Otherwise, water will cost $2, some sold by local schools as a fundraiser.

In all likelihood, the majority of attendees, who paid about $200 for a general-admission wristband, are in for a safe and sane blast.

One of the reasons? Age. Based on advance ticket sales, the demographic at the Mountain Home Country Music Festival will skew toward 30 to 48 years old.

“We typically do not get that 21-year-old crowd,” Hankins says. “I’m sure it’s because it’s not a cheap event to go to, so that kind of weeds out the people that just want to go in there and raise havoc and party it up. It’s a stellar lineup, so they’re there to just really enjoy the event and the experience.”

(Don’t forget that DJ KO will keep the party rocking until 1:30 a.m. every night in the Kickers After Hours Tent.)

“And then, of course, we have big announcements that we’ll do Friday night,” Hankins adds. “We’ll announce two headliners that you’ll have for 2016 that will blow people away.”

What? They’re already planning Mountain Home Country Music Festival II?

Having survived a few multi-day festivals myself — rock, admittedly, not country — I have three words of advice if you’re going this weekend: Pace. Yourself. Hoss.

“Beer is not a method to hydrate,” Hankins says.

Normally, I would try valiantly to discredit this statement, but in this case, take her advice.

Downtown bar closures

Iconic Boise music venue the Crazy Horse is history. It rose from the grave and reopened in September of 2014, but early this week, it shuttered again. “Landlord has evicted us,” was the statement on the club’s Facebook page.

In related news, another music venue that has struggled for years, The Bouquet, recently closed again down the street at 1010 Main. I’ve heard that the building was sold and that a food component might be in the room’s future, but I haven’t confirmed either of these statements as fact. Both sound positive. Just take it all with a grain of salt (and lime) for now.

Michael Deeds’ entertainment column runs Fridays in Scene and alternating Sundays in Explore. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.