Lava Hot Springs Folk Festival set for April 12-13

April 5, 2019

In celebration of community culture and in an effort to raise funds for the elementary school music program, the Greater Lava Hot Springs Prosperity Foundation is sponsoring the fourth annual Lava Hot Springs Folk Festival on April 12 and 13 in downtown Lava Hot Springs. Events include live music from Northwest folk singers and songwriters, raffles, auctions and other activities such as special appearances by Lava’s own PBS star Tahra Charmaine Waller of the Emmy-nominated children’s TV program Tahra Time.

Kathryn DeMott, owner of Lava Adventures and Lodging, said. “One of the lovely things about Lava is that you really don’t need to be in your vehicle once you’ve landed because pretty much walk through town. We encourage that. We want people to get out of their cars and be active. Some people never leave the downtown, but there is so much more here.”

DeMott said that April has traditionally been one of the year-round resort town’s slowest months. Four years ago, Gail Palen, the owner of Lava’s Riverside Inn, founded the event in hopes of boosting the local economy during its down season. But the Folk Festival isn’t just about tourism.

Though Lava attracts all kinds of visitors with its natural mineral pools, Olympic-sized swimming pools and high dives, river tubing, golfing, outdoor recreation, and a genuine taste of the old American west, Lava Hot Springs is also a town of residents and Idaho-based business owners who care deeply about the needs of its members and preserving the small-town charm that has existed since trapper Bob Dempsey settled there in the 1850s. The Folk Festival event was also established to help raise much needed funds to promote music at Lava Elementary School.

“The school has probably about $1,800 allocated for the entire years set aside for music projects,” said Susan Thomas, owner of the Dragonfly Gallery. “That is pretty much nothing. The need has been great.”

“We still have kind of a village feel here,” DeMott said. “The actual population here is just over 400. Both Susan and I are grandmas, but we care and stay very involved with what the kids are doing with the schools here. We have surrogate grandkids in the community.”

Thomas said that 100% of funds raised by the raffle will be donated to the elementary school and includes items donated by local businesses and artisans such as artwork, lodging, zip-lining, and Costco certificates. Thomas, herself, donated several wooden chairs that professional artists volunteered to paint for a silent auction.

“The school doesn’t have funds for instruments,” Thomas said. “This year, the Folk Festival is expanding to include donation sites for instrument drop-off at the Dragonfly Gallery and Riverside Inn. Those donated instruments will be given directly to the school.”

Thomas said they have already had two keyboards and various percussion instruments donated. Mike’s Music in Pocatello will also present a brand new ukulele to the Lava Elementary student who sells the most raffle tickets.

Thomas said the proceeds of past Festival have helped provide electronic equipment for student productions at Christmas and the Festival committee is working with Idaho State University to help Lava teachers gain Continuing Education Units in Music. Because of the small size of their school, Thomas said that there has not been a designated music teacher, so the teachers have had to teach the children music with the resources available.

DeMott said that during Lava’s busy seasons, tourism is definitely growing and there is pressure for the town services to grow to accommodate the demand, but that demand comes with a price and that residents of Lava are in split-decision over its future.

“For me,” DeMott said, “I want to keep the charm. We really have reached capacity on a lot of our weekends. The hot springs can hardly hold one other person on Saturday nights. There’s a definite love of Lava when people visit here. The Travel and Chamber counsels have done a lot of promoting and it’s been effective. People are coming. … I personally think we are at capacity.”

Both DeMott and Thomas, both residents of Lava for over 10 years, said that they moved to the town because of its charm, the healing principles of the natural springs, and the peaceful atmosphere.

“There is a charm here and it is a place of healing,” DeMott said. “We are right in the middle of nature. It has a calm, healing energy. We don’t have a stoplight in town. I’d like to promote and preserve the wellness that we offer here.”

Thomas added, “The atmosphere here is outside of the normal do-do-go-go lifestyle. It’s a life of just being.”

More information on events and venues can be found at www.lavahotsprings.org/blog.html. There is no admission fee to listen to musicians, but donations towards the music program will be accepted.