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Favorite Venue? I Like the Tetons

by Pat Hill  |  Thursday Jun. 1st, 2017


With an assortment of excellent festivals during the summer in the northern Rockies, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but my favorite venue has to be on the west side of the Teton mountain range at Grand Targhee Resort. Tom Garnsey, owner of Vootie Productions in Bozeman, has been bringing the bands to this gorgeous venue at 8,000 feet for decades now. July brings TargheeFest to the Tetons, and in August, the renowned Targhee Bluegrass Festival takes place.

“It’s the highlight of my summer,” enthuses Garnsey. “I love doing those festivals. And I never know how they are going to turn out. I always go in with an idea of, ‘Here’s what I want it to look like this year...and...it never looks like that.” The logistics of putting together a festival at Targhee can be daunting, for the bands as well as the producer.

“Bands can do four festivals in a weekend on either coast and make five times the money,” he said. “And, flying in, say, a 14-member band to Jackson Hole in the middle of July...it’s about the most expensive place to fly on earth, it seems. And it’s not only cost-prohibitive, it’s time-prohibitive...it takes three or four days out of a band’s touring schedule to perform at a place like Targhee. It’s a hard place to come to, and people have to want to do it. And they do. That’s why you see a lot of return performers, because people want to return to this magical place.” That desire to return to the Tetons includes festival attendees and performers.

“These festivals are always great, in my experience,” said Garnsey (he has produced over 30 festivals at the Grand Targhee venue). “You don’t always get who you want, stuff falls through, but it always leads to another cool little avenue. This year’s Targhee Fest is a bit different for me. There’s a lot of funk and soul, not what I’d envisioned at first, but then I step back and look at what’s come together, and say to myself, ‘Yeah, that’s gonna be great!’ Overall, I think it’s a pretty killer lineup.”

“Targhee Bluegrass is a tricky one, too, because there’s only so many headliners [in that genre],” Garnsey said. “There’s not that many David Grismans or Sam Bushes. And you see those people at every bluegrass festival around the country. But they all seem to love Targhee. I look at this year’s lineup and see that 85-90 percent of those people have already played here...but they’re the best there is. And they are also the ones that helped to make the Targhee Bluegrass Festival what it is. When you look at the poster--that’s not what’s going to happen. It’s all the stuff between the cracks. Tim O’Brien slips onto the stage with Sam [Bush], for example. And around and around it goes. I just try and set the table, and let them make the dinner.”

Garnsey is also very enthusiastic regarding Targhee Music Camp, which, though coinciding with Targhee Bluegrass, is really a separate event conducted during the four days leading up to the bluegrass festival.

“The camp has turned into something beyond magical,” he said. “In the last four or five years, it has gone from 50 or 60 partipants to around 120 last year. The level of instruction is phenomenal. And just the vibe...it’s this culture of people sharing knowledge, learning from each other, mentoring people...it really is beautiful.”

For more information on all three of these events, including lineups, tickets, camping passes and more, go to grandtarghee.com or vootie.com.

“It’s not the lineup, it’s not the mountains, it’s not the people,” Garnsey said of the music being made at Grand Targhee Resort this summer. “It’s all those things. It somehow makes it way bigger than it is.”   

About the Author(s)

Pat Hill

Pat Hill is a freelance writer in Bozeman. A native Montanan and former advisor to Montana State University’s Exponent newspaper, Pat has been writing about the history and politics of the Treasure State for nearly three decades.

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