An Evening of Culture


The Festival at Sandpoint

Anticipation overwhelmed me as I thought about the unique night ahead. My family and I were going to experience the Festival at Sandpoint for the first time. Since 1983, this non-profit festival has hosted its renowned summer concert series in the casual and relaxed atmosphere of Memorial Field.

We were attending the grand finale concert “Viva Italia,” featuring the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Maestro Gary Sheldon. The classical portion of the program was to include the “Roman Carnival Overture” by Berlioz, “Dance of the Hours” by Ponchielli and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Jazz pianist Vadim Neselovskyi would also perform at the concert.

I fondly reminisced about my introduction to culture. Growing up in the small town of Grangeville, I wasn’t naturally exposed to music, plays or art, but my parents made sure my siblings and I experienced them. I remember them taking me to the play “Oliver Twist” in Lewiston and listening to “Madame Butterfly” by the fire. We also journeyed to Salt Lake City to see “The Magic Flute” and Seattle for “Fiddler on the Roof.” So I was excited about the opportunity to give my kids a taste of culture, especially in this atmosphere, under the stars.

As we walked onto Memorial Field, we were enticed by mouthwatering aromas. Food booths were set up near the entrance, teasing our taste buds and luring us away from the main attraction. We hovered there, wondering whether to feast first or find a spot to set up our lawn chairs and blankets. Reason won out and my family and I scoured the lawn for the perfect place to view the concert. My son spied a shiny red Ferrari and immediately gravitated toward it, making our decision easy. We laid down our belongings and gazed around us.

More than 50 local wineries were behind us offering complimentary tastes of their fi nest vintages. Visitors crowded together, swirling and tasting the wine. People didn’t seem to mind the long lines or jostling into for position. They smiled and laughed as we joined them. The sun was shining, the wine was plentiful and I couldn’t help but relish the experience of being outdoors at one of the largest wine-tasting events in the Northwest. There was a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. These were fellow wine connoisseurs and want-to-be connoisseurs. It was the ideal complement to the grand finale concert.

Finally, we rallied the kids and hurried over to the food booths. I chose pulled pork tostadas and the kids devoured pizza and hot dogs. The fresh air had given all of us big appetites.

As we settled back onto our chairs and blankets, the first chords of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra sounded. I looked at the dusky blue sky and noticed one twinkling star. The music flowed gracefully through the crowd and gradually it became quiet. There was something magical about gazing at the sky with the music surrounding us, taking us to faraway places. A few little girls near us added to the entertainment by dancing merrily to the tunes. Their mothers quietly shushed them.

Then, a surprising thing happened. We heard chirping. I looked up and saw two nests filled with baby birds. They seemed to want to be part of the action. As the music peaked, the chirping rose, forming a beautiful duet in the night. My sister-in-law, a Sandpoint local, said they were ospreys and were famous in Sandpoint. There were even webcams attached to the two osprey nests, giving the world a private view of the baby birds. I chuckled to myself. What a great place. Where else could you go to a concert and hear the chirping of baby ospreys?

As darkness enveloped us, I closed my eyes and embraced the experience, letting the music wash over me. I felt calm and peaceful. The events of the past week flickered out of my consciousness and I thoroughly enjoyed the music. Life can get so hectic and overwhelming. Music, birds, food, wine, stars and he great outdoors. These are the experiences that make one glad to be alive. But the night wasn’t over yet. Bright, flashy fireworks lit up the sky as the Spokane Symphony finished its last song. I looked over at my children. Even though they were rubbing their eyes and were obviously fighting sleep, they were completely entranced by the music and fi reworks. I knew they would never forget this night. A little bit of culture goes a long way.

By: Mary Bacon/Contributing Photography by: The Festival at Sandpoint


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