Treefort reflects on 9th festival, COVID policies and lineup changes

eyeball skaters, treefort 9
Photo courtesy of Preston Valles

Treefort Music Fest held its ninth annual music festival this past week. The festival took place in downtown Boise from Sept. 22 until Sept. 26, spread out across 25 music venues and 15 non-music venues. 

There was, however, a significant decrease in attendance numbers from both attendees and artists performing at the festival. Given that this festival was held amidst a global pandemic, it was important to the team at Treefort that everyone remained safe and healthy.

With this decrease in attendance compared to the previous years, the Treefort team still pushed everyone to wear their mask throughout the entire festival. 

Treefort’s publicist, Marissa Lovell, expected attendance to be at least 30% less than past festivals, given that that percentage is usually made up of walk-up sales, which the festival cut off completely due to health and safety guidelines they put in place.

According to a recent press release from Treefort Music Festival, “attendance was down nearly 40% … due to organizers limiting ticket sales as part of its commitment to holding a safe event,” read the press release. “The festival had 8,000 total five-day passholders and, with the inclusion of single-event ticketed attendees, had roughly 15,475 total attendees over five days.”

[Photo of the ‘eyeball skaters’ at Treefort 9]
Photo courtesy of Preston Valles | Student Media

In addition to those coming from Idaho, Lovell mentioned that 2,187 pass holders came to the festival from out-of-state. Comparing that to attendee numbers in the previous years, Lovell and her team had to cap attendance for the five-day festival. 

Some bands and other artists in various forts were also affected by the timing of this festival and had to make arrangements to ensure their own health and safety.

For example, the band Tennis had to pull out of the festival because their entire tour was canceled; and Goth Babe suffered a concussion earlier this year and was unable to attend due to personal health concerns. 

Nevertheless, the festival still ran on, despite the decreased attendance and limited artist lineup. Local bands and bands from across the country filled the stages at Treefort and shared their music with the Boise community. 

VEMM, a local Boise band, played their first Treefort this year after only playing at house shows and other small venues across town. Two members of the band, Elias Willerup and Myles Stauffer, are also Boise State students. 

Junior GIMM major Elias Willerup, sophomore visual arts major Myles Stauffer and the rest of their band were able to perform their songs to new crowds at Treefort last week. 

“I just expected it to be normal but I was a little worried that no one would show up because we were playing at the same time as Built to Spill,” Stauffer said. 

Stauffer and Willerup were shocked to see the turnout of their first festival show. They were amazed to see the number of people who showed up and listened to their music safely while maintaining a social distance. 

To Willerup and the rest of the members in VEMM, music serves as a way to entertain their fans and friends, but also as a way to escape the chaos that the pandemic has caused, along with the hardships of navigating a hybrid academic environment at Boise State. 

“Boise is growing really fast and it’s gonna become a big city soon and if young people, kids and students don’t have an [creative] outlet, there’s going to be major problems with people’s development,” Willerup said. “I just think it’s so important that people have something to do that’s not school or kicking around downtown.”

The pandemic has put a halt on many things, but Treefort Music Fest continued to persist through it all. With vaccination requirements or proof of negative COVID-19 tests in place, the festival ensured that everyone remained happy and healthy.

The press release provided by Treefort Music Fest estimated that 80-85% of attendees were fully vaccinated and an estimated 6,000 attendees used the Bindle app to upload their vaccination records.

“695 people were tested on-site and resulted in 18 positive results,” wrote the press release. “All of the people who tested positive were not known pass holders and were sent home to quarantine. In addition, free vaccinations were offered on-site and 76 people got vaccinated while at Treefort.”

Supporting the local community and the artists who came from out of state to contribute to Treefort was what allowed the festival to happen. Wearing masks kept people safe, but to Lovell, it meant something more.

“It means that you are standing up for the music community and are willing to be part of the solution and part of a good example,” Lovell said. “It proves that events can move forward and live music can come … and show people that it is possible to do the right thing and have a large event.”

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