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Other Cities Would Welcome Festival

If ever there were a community that needed its collective head examined, it’s Sandpoint.

Other cities would trade their charters to host the Festival at Sandpoint, an eclectic series of concerts and workshops that stretch from early July to Labor Day. But Sandpoint remains apathetic and even hostile to its 14-year-old million-dollar baby.

Some neighbors, for example, want the festival moved from its traditional Memorial Field site, complaining loudly that they’re bothered by noise, crowds, parking problems and litter. Sports boosters covet the festival site. Meanwhile, the indecisive City Council has wrung its hands and occasionally hassled festival organizers about leases.

What nonsense! A major artistic and economic force shouldn’t be treated like this.

Community leaders should do everything possible to help the Festival at Sandpoint - much as they did in fall 1993 when Coldwater Creek Inc. threatened to relocate its warehouse operations and 72 jobs.

For a minimum of discomfort, Sandpoint attracts big-name talent such as B.B. King, Lyle Lovett and Johnny Cash as well as quality symphonic performances led by artistic director Gunther Schuller. Thousands from throughout the region book motels, buy gas, shop and eat in Sandpoint while attending the festival.

They’re drawn by the music and the outdoor ambience provided by Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountains. Many have thrilled at a full moon rising above the stage canopy - while a group such as Blood Sweat & Tears pounds out an oldie like “You Make Me So Very Happy.”

Two years ago, the festival finally stopped the flow of red ink by expanding popular shows. Last year, organizers experimented by staging a Willie Nelson performance at Cocolalla, the festival’s first off-site concert.

Festival supporters have proved they can bend somewhat to keep the shows going. But withering criticism from neighbors and lack of cooperation from city leaders are sapping their energy.

Organizers understandably want to keep the festival in the community. But a higher priority for them is keeping the festival intact and growing in a picturesque setting.

Coeur d’Alene’s north shore offers an alternative, as does Spokane’s Riverfront Park. The progressive leaders of Post Falls surely would welcome the festival at one of their parks, too.

Sandpoint has a great thing going. Too bad it’s the only town around that doesn’t know it.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board