Targhee Music Festival 2010: Michael Franti shares the love, inviting the kids from the audience to sing along on stage. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

Seabring Davis

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THE DOGS ARE AT THE KENNEL. The back door is locked. The Subaru is packed to the ceiling, mountain bikes included. The kids are buckled up in the back seat. I pull away from my house in Livingston, Mont., and we are on the road headed to Alta, Wyo., for the Targhee Music Festival. Sounds fun, but to be truthful, in this moment I am feeling stressed. It’s July. We’ve been traveling a lot since the kids got out of school: Hawaii, California, Nevada. My work is piled up. We’ve had guests for two weeks. I am still recovering from the Fourth of July Livingston Rodeo weekend. My husband is out of town on business; the other mom who was supposed to be going to Targhee Fest with me cancelled at the last minute because she had to work.

So it’s just me, my two daughters (Isabel, 10 and Simone, 6) and the daughter of the friend who canceled (she is 11). We are meeting friends at the festival. I know it will be fun once we get there, but for now, I feel like I have to drive like crazy to arrive before dark (and before one of the kids has to pee.)

I go through my mental checklist for a road trip with three kids on my own. The modern essentials: snacks; water; DVD player; laptop; iPod; iPad; iTouch; Mad Libs. It’s a four and half-hour drive to Grand Targhee Resort; a mother has to be prepared.

Turning the corner from the house, my 6-year-old asks, “Are we there yet?”


IN IT'S 7TH YEAR, the annual Targhee Music Festival consistently showcases headliner bands that set the tone at the three-day show for great, danceable music. Tom Garnsey, of Vootie Productions in Bozeman, Mont., produces the show in conjunction with Grand Targhee Resort, as well as the long-running Targhee Bluegrass Festival (going on 24 years in 2011). His connection to Targhee is longstanding, from when he played at the resort’s legendary Trap Bar with his own band 28 years ago.

“Targhee and I — we go way back,” says Garnsey, adding with sincerity, “Targhee Fest is not just about the music, it’s about how low-key, family friendly, and accessible the whole experience is once you are there. That’s something that artists pick up on immediately, even for them playing here is like being on vacation.”

Garnsey and his wife, Bridget, founded Vootie in 1990 with the intention of bringing live, quality music to southwest Montana. Since then, they’ve been responsible for connecting Montana and Wyoming to great musicians including Los Lobos, Lyle Lovett, Michelle Shocked and The Band. Over a decade they've produced more than 500 shows ranging in size from 200 seats to 8,000, building a loyal fan base and relationships with artists spanning musical genres from rock, folk, blues, bluegrass, reggae, world music to jazz. Names like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, David Grisman Quintet, Dave Matthews Band, John Prine, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Hot Tuna, Ratdog, The Wailers, Steel Pulse, Bela Fleck, Jimmy Cliff, Branford Marsalis, REM, Widespread Panic and Phish have put Montana and Wyoming on their tour maps, thanks to the longstanding relationships built through Vootie.

Those relationships trickle down to Targhee Fest, where international players get the chance to rock the stage with the Grand Tetons as the backdrop and a receptive crowd —often numbering up to 5,000 — who appreciates them.

“It isn’t that easy to get to Targhee,” notes Garnsey, “but once you come, you will be back and you will bring friends. It’s that kind of magical experience.”

Voted one of the hottest new bands by "Rolling Stone Magazine" in 2010, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals rock the Targhee Fest. Photo by Heather Erson Photography

The squeeze box jam. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

Alejandro Escovedo struts the stage with style. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

NEAR ASHTON, IDAHO, we slow the car to look at the edge of the Teton Range. I emphasize the beauty, the vastness and that soon we will be up close in those mountains.

“Are we there yet,” the 6-year-old asks again.

In Driggs we stop for more snacks. The kids ask if they can rent a movie for the rest of the drive. “No,” I tell them curtly. In fact, I tell them to put all the electronic gadgets away for the weekend. They can come out on the drive home, but for now it’s about the scenery, the music, the fun we’ll have together. They glare at me.

We get back in the car and turn onto Ski Hill Road, heading up to Targhee. I put the new Grace Potter and the Nocturnals CD into the stereo, noting to the girls that this band will play at the music festival. They glare at me.

As the road begins to wind up from the valley floor, switchbacking toward an elevation of 7,800 feet, the tension in the car begins to unwind. Gracie (as we like to call her in our car) and her Nocturnals belt out husky-voiced lyrics and upbeat guitar-driven songs until we roll down our windows to let in the mountain air. By the third turn in the road the whole car of girls is singing along with Potter’s catchy tunes.

Pulling into the dusty parking lot, I already see three people I know. They smile and wave, I honk. There is no line of cars, no traffic. Just a couple guys dressed in yellow vests helping with the flow of parking. “Welcome to Targhee!” one says with a big grin.

Several hundred cars, vans, RVs and campers sprawl across the lot, transforming it into a temporary village of festival-goers. We park next to camper with a canopy that stretches to another camper, creating a shady place where a handful of folks lounge in folding chairs and a hammock secured between the two vehicles. As I get out of the car, I hear a drum circle begin to roll out a steady rhythm. Across from us a couple of guys kick a hacky sack. Another guy is strumming an acoustic guitar in the shade of a tree at the end of the lot. We unload our stuff and head to the hotel to check in.

“Are we there, yet?” says Simone, gawking at the folks in the parking lot.


NEAR ASHTON, IDAHO, we slow the car to look at the edge of the Teton Range. I emphasize the beauty, the vastness and that soon we will be up close in those mountains.

“Are we there yet,” the 6-year-old asks again.

In Driggs we stop for more snacks. The kids ask if they can rent a movie for the rest of the drive. “No,” I tell them curtly. In fact, I tell them to put all the electronic gadgets away for the weekend. They can come out on the drive home, but for now it’s about the scenery, the music, the fun we’ll have together. They glare at me.

We get back in the car and turn onto Ski Hill Road, heading up to Targhee. I put the new Grace Potter and the Nocturnals CD into the stereo, noting to the girls that this band will play at the music festival. They glare at me.

As the road begins to wind up from the valley floor, switchbacking toward an elevation of 7,800 feet, the tension in the car begins to unwind. Gracie (as we like to call her in our car) and her Nocturnals belt out husky-voiced lyrics and upbeat guitar-driven songs until we roll down our windows to let in the mountain air. By the third turn in the road the whole car of girls is singing along with Potter’s catchy tunes.

Pulling into the dusty parking lot, I already see three people I know. They smile and wave, I honk. There is no line of cars, no traffic. Just a couple guys dressed in yellow vests helping with the flow of parking. “Welcome to Targhee!” one says with a big grin.

Several hundred cars, vans, RVs and campers sprawl across the lot, transforming it into a temporary village of festival-goers. We park next to camper with a canopy that stretches to another camper, creating a shady place where a handful of folks lounge in folding chairs and a hammock secured between the two vehicles. As I get out of the car, I hear a drum circle begin to roll out a steady rhythm. Across from us a couple of guys kick a hacky sack. Another guy is strumming an acoustic guitar in the shade of a tree at the end of the lot. We unload our stuff and head to the hotel to check in.

“Are we there, yet?” says Simone, gawking at the folks in the parking lot.

We stroll through the festival gates, tickets in hand (kids under 12 are still free.). The girls see friends from the pool and beg to sit with them. We agree to check in every 30 minutes. I choose a soft grassy spot in the middle of the field with a nice view of the stage, not too close to the speakers. The girls kick off their shoes and run to join their buddies.

The sun is warm in that perfect high-elevation way. The musicians are tuning up backstage. My thoughts of deadlines are gone. The audience lounges in the grassy bowl at the base of Fred’s Mountain. Laughter wafts through the crowd, setting the easy afternoon mood. I spread the blanket out on the grass and settle in until the music begins. We will dance till dark, until way past bedtime.

A good friend from Livingston saunters up to chat. We will hike at sunrise tomorrow before the kids wake up. Maybe a bike ride after lunch. The stress I felt earlier is gone. The crowd applauds as the band takes the stage and the music begins.

We are there, I think, and smile.


Editor’s Note: The 7th Annual Targhee Music Festival, July 15-17, 2011, promises a fantastic weekend of headliners in the beautiful Teton Mountains at Grand Targhee Resort. Enjoy Michael Franti & Spearhead, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Sharon Jones & the Dapp Kings, Jason Spooner, Sarah Bareilles, James McMurtry, Little Feat and many more. Tickets start at $40 for Friday night only and range to $139 for a three-day pass. Go to: www.grandtarghee.com

Grace Potter belts our a song at The Grand Targhee Music Fest. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

Shawn Colvn smooths with her clever lyrics and melodic tunes. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

David Lindley's masterful picking and philosophical approach enthralls listeners. Photo courtesy of Vootie Productions

Hoola Hoops are a mainstay at mountain music festivals. Photo by Cody Downard