Every city worth its salt has a music festival, and lucky for us, Boise is no different.
Each spring, Boise hosts Treefort Music Fest, a five-day, all-ages festival featuring more than 400 local, national and international bands playing at venues small and large throughout downtown.
But Treefort 2020 is much more than just a music festival. Since its inception in 2012, the grassroots festival has grown in size, popularity and scope to include a number of other “forts,” each with diverse programming, including Yogafort, Foodfort, Alefort, Comedyfort, Hackfort (the festival’s tech-themed fort), Storyfort and Filmfort, to name a few.
With the Treefort schedule running almost around the clock at bars, churches, restaurants, even the local Shriner’s temple, experiencing the best Treefort has to offer can seem overwhelming. Below you’ll find a handy guide to everything you need to know about getting the most out of your festival experience.
Brooklyn based indie-dance pop band, Rubblebucket on the main stage at Treefort Music Fest. Courtesy Brent Cheffings
The Essentials: Treefort Tickets
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a few factors you’ll want to consider before you splash out on a pass or ticket to Treefort. Do you want to commit to a full five days of Treefort (and its requisite cost)? If so, the festival offers “early bird” deals on festival passes leading up to Treefort. Be on the lookout for deals as late as March 1 for passes.
Buying passes is a customizable experience. For instance, if the worst part of a festival experience for you is waiting in lines, buying a Zipline pass will allow you to bypass lines at all the forts. If you or someone in your family is under 21, you can purchase them a U21 pass for less, and if you’ve got children under 12, they get into Treefort for free when accompanied by an adult with a Treefort pass.
If the Treefort lineup on one particular day really sings to you, single day general admission passes are also available. These give you full access to all forts for one day. Meanwhile, site-specific passes like the Main Stage pass gives you access to all the heavy-hitting acts on the main stage, also for one day.
If your tastes are tailored to one specific fort, you can also buy an individual two- or three-day pass to forts including Filmfort, Hackfort, and Yogafort.
Recent additions like Kidfort and Skatefort were created for families who want to experience the festival together. Kidfort has free structured activities each day that kids of all ages will enjoy – including youth performances by Boise Rock School, youth variety showcases, magic acts, craft stations, dance battles, and the ever popular Drag Queen Story Hour.
Skatefort, meanwhile, is a free fort created by the Boise Skateboard Association and Boise’s Parks & Recreation that features bands, skateboarding demos and friendly daily competitions. According to the organizations, “Skateboarding and music have always gone hand in hand and our goal is to bring people together at a world class skatepark to celebrate our creativity.”
Getting Around Treefort
Navigating Downtown Boise gets tricky when you inject more than 23,000 people, stages and forts into its streets. Finding parking is for the brave (and very patient). Fortunately, the festival has partnered with local nonprofit Boise Bicycle Project to install hundreds of temporary bike racks downtown. If you don’t have your own, Boise Green Bike has rideshare bikes available to rent downtown, plus a handy app for locating the nearest wheels.
If you live elsewhere in the city, bussing to downtown is a great option. Boise State University also has free shuttles that loop from campus into downtown on a regular basis (you’ll want to grab the orange or grey line. Be aware, however, that these shuttles often stop operation at around 6 p.m. during spring break).
Electric scooter companies, like Bird and Lime, operate in Boise and leave plenty of scooters throughout the downtown area. Both charge $1 per ride, plus a per-minute charge and require a phone app to use.
Remember, Treefort takes over the whole of Downtown Boise, plus some. Getting a full festival experience inevitably involves a lot of walking (and standing). Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and pace yourself!
Staying Hydrated (and Fed)
Alefort is the beer, wine and food tasting component of Treefort Music Fest, and doesn’t require a Treefort ticket (or pass) to enter. Anyone over 21 can enjoy hundreds of beers on tap, as well as cocktails and bite-sized snacks curated by local restaurants (and offered at select hours). However, it’s helpful to know in advance that anyone drinking at Alefort will need to bring or purchase a reusable cup, as part of the festival’s efforts to cut down on waste.
Finding great eats during Treefort is never a problem. In addition to streets lined with food trucks parked in front of the Main Stage, many of the festival’s venues are also restaurants, and even festival venues that don’t traditionally have food – like Rhodes Skate Park – arrange to have local food trucks nearby.
That is all to say; there is something to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds at Treefort. Aside from the casual offerings listed above, each year there are select tasting events put on by beloved local restaurants and intimate dinners plated by national culinary celebrities. Just be sure to check the Treefort website early if these events appeal to you – they sell out quickly.
Treefort Takes the Festival World By Storm
Part of Treefort’s wild success is timing – the festival’s founders cleverly time Treefort to be the week after Austin’s much-bigger music festival SXSW, which allows Treefort to scoop up many bands who are looking to make the most out of being on the road.
Yet despite its success and subsequent rapid growth, the charm of Treefort remains in its intimacy and attention to detail. This includes everything from creating welcome baskets for artists (featuring local good and artwork made by excited kids) to the army of volunteer window painters who decorate Boise’s downtown with their work.
Many bands that have played Treefort return to play other shows because of this thoughtfulness – what we call “Boise Nice.” And that “Boise Nice” applies to all levels of Treefort: in 2015, the festival applied for and received B-Corp status, a designation that means it’s working to solve social and environmental problems through its business. Certified B-Corp companies must meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency and must re-certify every two years.
Also in 2015, Treefort was named a Cultural Ambassador for the City of Boise because of its ability to harness and broadcast the city’s cultural beacons to northwest, national and international audiences.
That means that Treefort is not just a festival, it is a citywide celebration of the things its residents treasure the most: great music, divine food, thought-provoking art, warm hospitality. So be on the lookout for opportunities that aren’t part of the official lineup. In the past, Boise State University students have hosted “prefort” undergraduate literary contests and readings; volunteers have given culturally curated tours of the festival; bands have returned to their favorite bars to play low-key sets; and dance parties have been known to break out in the streets.
With the evolution of so many successful forts and organic fun, it’s easy to personalize your festival experience. Don’t be surprised if you walk away from your first Treefort comparing highlights with your partner or friends, and planning for next year’s return.
TREEFORT MUSIC FEST POSTPONED, NEW DATES ANNOUNCED
The ninth annual Treefort Music Fest will now take place on September 22-26, 2021. Read the Press Release.
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