STAYCATION: Festival Season

One of my favorite things about summer is the plethora of special events and festivals to pick from. They are usually free (or really cheap) and family-friendly ways to really get to know a community or local tradition. Of course, they almost always fall on the weekends, and we all know that summer weekends are packed with travel or other extracurricular activities, so it's impossible to take them all in. I highly recommend, however, trying to get to a few and am dedicating this staycation post to some festivals we've recently attended.

We hit Boise's Greek Food Festival at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church every year, and it keeps getting better and better. It's usually held the first weekend in June and is filled with yummy eats and Greek dancers. The lovely little church is open for tours, and the real highlight is the delicious trays of Greek cookies and baklava that you can buy in the church basement. They sell out fast, though, so it's imperative to go on Friday rather than Saturday.

Eagle Fun Days is also held in mid-June, and this was the first time we attended. While we didn't go to all the events offered (the Wet and Wild Parade does sound like a lot of fun), we did take advantage of the free family night at the rodeo. It was the preparatory "slack" event, sort of a practice run for the cowboys' and cowgirls' timed events. It was the first time Lucy had ever been to a rodeo, and while it wasn't as exciting or organized as a real rodeo performance, it was a fun, laid-back way to introduce her to the quintessential Idaho sport. The beer and sno-cones were cheap, and the girls got to hang on the fencing and see the animals up close and personal.

The highlight of our festival-going thus far this summer, however, was the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser last weekend. I'm proud to say that I was born in Weiser, and it's always worth a staycation day, as it is less than 1.5 hours away from Boise. However, I highly recommend you go during Fiddle Week, which is always the third week in June. The history of the Fiddle Festival, which began in 1953, is a bit ambiguous and mythical, but I found a really compelling and nicely written little article about it's history here. The whole town gets a-hoppin', as there are carnival rides, bluegrass bands, local food booths, a parade, garage sales a-plenty, and a bike rodeo as well. The real magic, however, can be found as you wander around "the Institute" behind the high school, where the fiddlers make their camp and stage impromptu jam sessions all day and night. The official competitive rounds, featuring world-class fiddlers from around the world, are held at Weiser High School throughout the week. They culminate in the final round to award the Grand National Champion on Saturday night.

Eric and I were gifted stellar seats three rows from the stage (thanks, Aunt Terri!), and had a great view. In addition to the competitive round events, there were other wonderful musicians that entertained the sold-out audience that night, including these two, Mexican guitarist Miguel De Hoyos and fiddler Alex DePue, which absolutely knocked our socks off. I am not kidding you, people, these are amazing musicians. And, of course, watching the intensity and improvisation of the fiddling finalists, like this young fella from Corvallis, Oregon, was exciting. While the final competition lasted a little over four hours, we were completely enraptured by the live musical talent before us. (Plus, it was a real date! With no kids! And included a sushi dinner beforehand!)

It's been so fun experiencing the local flavor and history of these Idaho communities as a family and we have plans to continue throughout the summer. So, grab your kids or load up some friends and head to Emmett to pick some cherries, to the local synagogue to gnash on some kugel, to Blackfoot to hit the horse races at the fair, or to Fort Hall to celebrate the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. I guarantee it is a unique way to learn something new and have a helluva a good time in the process.