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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Get Out Fest brings people, music, outdoors together

Get Out Fest will feature a portable climbing wall. (Timon Behan Producer/Director)

As the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest and former CEO of REI, it’s no surprise Bobby Whittaker is an avid outdoorsman.

A music fan who grew up in Seattle, it’s also no surprise that Whittaker immersed himself into the city’s blossoming grunge scene, eventually touring with Mudhoney and, later, the likes of R.E.M., Neko Case, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Rufus Wainwright.

Combining his two passions has long been on Whittaker’s mind, and about eight years after he began to toss around the idea of an event that brought music and the outdoors together, Whittaker and Emily Burt, co-owner and founder of Republic Brewing, have launched Get Out Fest.

“The concept is there’s all this beautiful wealth of public land here, and it’s yours as much as it is mine,” Whittaker, who was in Spokane earlier this year to screen the film “Return to Mount Kennedy,” said.

Get Out Fest, through Sunday at the Ferry County Fairgrounds, features a little something for everyone.

Those looking to hit the trails (the Ferry County Rail Trail and Golden Tiger Pathway, specifically) can register for the officially timed half marathon or 5K. Both runs start and finish at the fairgrounds, and routes include aid stations with water and snacks.

Participants will walk away with a T-shirt and finisher’s medal

For those who prefer to travel on two wheels, consider the 14-mile Kettle Crest Mountain Bike Ride, hosted by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance - East Chapter, or the 25-mile road ride around Curlew Lake hosted by People On Wheels.

The Pacific Northwest Trail Association will lead a guided hike along the Sherman Peak Loop, and attendees also have opportunities to fish, skateboard, climb, kayak, paddleboard and hunt for fossils (yes, really) at the Stonerose Museum and Fossil Site.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though.

On Friday, Eureka Gulch Community Clubhouse will screen “The Bikes of Wrath,” and Seattle’s the Cave Singers will perform on Saturday.

There will also be games courtesy of REI, food vendors, a beer garden and non-alcoholic beverages.

Attendees are welcome to camp during the festival. Tent camping is $20 per tent, which covers attendees for the whole festival, while RV camping costs $30 per night.

Activities and support courtesy of organizations including Evergreen Mountain Bike, the Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Ferry County Rail Trail Partners, Northeast Washington Trailblazers, the Colville National Forest recreation team, Grindline Skateparks, Back Country Horsemen of Washington State-Ferry County Chapter and Republic Tree Benders Snowmobile/ATV Club.

The variety of activities, Whittaker hopes, will lead to mingling between participants.

Time and time again, he’s seen a group of people head out, spend the day on their own activity, like running or mountain biking, then head back to the campsite and only talk to one another.

“I thought ‘Let’s take it up a notch. Let’s include some cultural elements like the music and let’s make it a good mixer, a place to gather and a coming together,’ ” Whittaker said. “You’ve got to step outside your bubble once in a while.”

Whittaker called the Ferry County Fairgrounds, at the foot of the Kettle Mountain Range, an underutilized facility but hopes Get Out Fest changes that.

“It’s got incredible mountain biking and hiking and areas for motorized recreation,” he said. “It’s like the captain’s platter of national forests. It’s gorgeous.”

He also hopes Get Out Fest serves as a reminder to people who might have forgotten after so much time in the city or stuck in traffic that they are rooted in nature.

“There’s a saying ‘Every trail connects,’ ” he said. “That’s a pretty simple concept but if you think about it, it connects you to everything. These trails are connecting people back to a more natural environment, an appreciation for animals, wilderness, wildlife and thrilling, gripping outdoor sports too if you want.”