Who, What, Where, Now!
Ranch Fest: "A Barn Party on The Wild Idaho Prairie"
For a semi-private, “invite-only” (but not really) party, Ranch Fest 2012 sure had quite a turnout. Lisa Simpson, of Idaho-band Finn Riggins, estimated between 400-500 people in attendance, with numbers that grow modestly every year (they have purposefully avoided advertising and imposed a strict “no d-bags” policy). “It started as a family party, back in 2006, and over the years turned into this,” says Lisa spreading her arms over the acres of tents, VW vans, campers, “mustache” trucks, U-Haul trailers, and a few sleeping bags curled up in the dirt with a dog and a red keg cup.
For the last five years running, the Bouiss family has generously donated their land to make the festival possible—celebrating Memorial Day weekend with music, breakfast pancakes, BBQ, and, of course, plenty of beer out in Tumbleweeds, Idaho (the small fictitious “town” on the Fairfield prairie). The best part? It’s all free. Cameron Bouiss, Finn Riggins’ drummer and son of the Bouiss family, explains, “My father always said, ‘Some people like to work their land. Some people like to farm on it. But I like to throw parties on my land.’” You will recognize Mike, the father, as the one walking around at 3am with a bottle of Hornitos, passing out “selectivos” in a shot glass.
In recent years, due to expansion, they have asked for a donation between $30 and $50 at the door—“Just enough to break even. And maybe give the out-of-town bands some gas money,” says Lisa. But she also explains that no (cool) person will be turned away for inability to pay. You can volunteer or just lend a hand, which most people do anyway, and you’re in.
With around 30 bands that hail from San Francisco, Portland, and of course, plenty of Idaho locals, the music is only a few main stages shy of a full-blown festival. The barn on the property supplies the “indoor” stage, where the music rocks the roof so hard you have to dance with one hand over your keg cup to avoid drinking sawdust. The crowd is a motley collection of cowboy hats and rubber fishing waders, skinny jeans, fur coats and oversized bejeweled sunglasses, Boise lawyers, inflatable hotdog hats, Horizon Airline pilots on a layover, crusty Irish men (one who claimed to have come up from Antarctica just for the festival), and one big Basset Hound named Bubba—all huddled together under the same barn roof for good music and a good time.
It’s only through the hard work of few (thank you, Lisa), the general awesomeness of one family (thank you, Bouiss’), and the good attitude of the goers that has kept Ranch Fest running all these years. So if and when you decide to go, because it is a highly recommended good time, be sure to bring your most polite country “howdy.” And buy a tee shirt.
For more information or to get on the RSVP list, keep an eye on the Finn Riggins website next Memorial Day weekend.
[Kate Elgee is an Idaho native, new Ranch Fest groupie and the assistant editor for Sun Valley Magazine.]