Sasquatch Fest Leaves Footprint in Rural Washington

By Paige Browning

Friday through Monday Day a tiny Washington agricultural town becomes a weekend haven for music lovers.  It’s the 12th year of the Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater, where more than 20-thousand (20,000) people will camp and see live music.  The event and local community have embraced each other.
 
Alabama Shakes play at the Bigfoot stage at Sasquatch Music Festival 2012. (By Paige Browning)More than 100 bands and artists, like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, will play to a sold out crowd at the Sasquatch Music Festival. It’s one of dozens of music festivals in the U.S., but ask any attendee, and they’ll tell you this one is different.  Aside from audience size, festival founder and curator Adam Zacks says the defining difference is the location.
 
[Zacks] “It’s very hard to replicate the experience of being out at the Gorge, short of going to the Grand Canyon.”
 
Bands play on five stages from about 1:00 p.m. until after midnight.  Bands like Elvis Costello and the Imposters will play soundtrack to the sun setting over the Columbia River Gorge. 

Photo: Alabama Shakes play at the Bigfoot stage at Sasquatch Music Festival 2012. (By Paige Browning)
 
Zacks says many attendees consider it the highlight of the year.  So much, in fact, this year’s event sold out in record time: 90 minutes.
 
A rapid influx of people impacts local residents, businesses, and law enforcement.  But, the Grant County sheriff seems worry-free.
 
[Jones] “Overall it’s a fairly peaceful crowd, you know going from zero to 24-25,000 just in the campground.  It’s a mini city in itself.  We expect some problems, but knock on wood we’ve been very fortunate.”
 
Sheriff Tom Jones says his department gives a risk assessment to all events at the Gorge Amphitheater, and Sasquatch is one of their lower risk concerts.

The mini-city of people brings much appreciated business to the venue’s neighbor.
 
[Arredondo] “We love being here.”
 
That’s Freddie Arredondo, winemaker at Cave B Winery.  He says concerts at the Gorge have a huge, positive, impact on how many people visit the tasting room.
 
[Arredondo] “It is different on a concert day, as opposed to a typically weekend in the tasting room, but it’s something we’re totally used to because we’ve dealt with it since day one.”
 
They’re one of very few businesses near the venue. Karen Vizna at the Quincy, Washington Chamber of Commerce, says other than the wineries the impact on the local economy isn’t huge.  Most people drive into the campground and don’t emerge until weekends end.  But she says the community is very accepting of the music festival.
 
A queue of concert goers at Sasquatch Music Festival 2012. (Photo by Paige Browning)Zacks says that pilgrimage to the Gorge has become a rite of passage for young people.
 
[Zacks] “I know it holds a meaningful place in some people’s hearts that way.  And it’s also become a path towards music discovery, since there’s a flood of so many bands in the world, the festival can be a filter for what we think is the cream of the crop.”
 
Part of that selection this year includes this band, Alt-J, headliners like Sigur Ros, Mumford and Sons, and the Postal Service, and northwest bands like Telekinesis and Rose Windows.
 
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio

Photo: A queue of concert goers at Sasquatch Music Festival 2012. (Photo by Paige Browning)
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