The Measure of a Festival 

Taking a look at Treefort by the numbers

Every year, the site of the Treefort Main Stage undergoes a multi-day metamorphosis, transforming from a surface parking lot to a venue worthy of the likes of Lizzo and Charles Bradley. Workers spend days sectioning the space off, erecting the tents and the stage itself, and installing a gateway big enough for thousands of people—and, once, an LED-lit macro-puppet spider—to use.

The main stage is where all the faces of the festival can be seen, from those belonging to ardent music fans crowding barricades near the stage and children scurrying about their parents' knees to those of volunteers and gawkers. It's a good bet many of them belong to people who have come to Boise from someplace else. That's because Treefort is a net, and its catch, at least in the beginning, was made up of bands heading home from the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, and their diehard fans.

"A lot of people know what SXSW is, and we'll definitely say that [Treefort has] organically grown a festival that captures those bands traveling from SXSW," said Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carrie Westergard. "Those musicians are coming through here, and [Treefort is] capturing them to perform in all these different venues throughout Boise. It really transforms the city for five days."

Last year, the BCVB began using a new tool to figure out part of the size of Treefort's splash: an economic impact calculator that measures rented hotel accommodations, transportation costs, food and beverage consumption, retail activity and recreation. The economic impact of tourists attending Treefort in 2017 alone was estimated at more than $2.7 million, and the total impact of the festival, Westergard said, was closer to $4.8 million.

"This year it could be over $5 million," she said.

click to enlarge BOISE CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
  • Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Treefort means many things to many people. For most of the thousands of music fans, techies, book lovers, foodies and yogis, it's a celebration. For some of them, it's also an entre to the city, which has become the darling of internet top 10 lists and ranks high for its quality of life. The charts and graphs on this page offer a profile of Treefort by the numbers: how it has grown, how it has changed and what it means to Boise. Increasingly, as Westergard put it, the festival functions as a "first date" with the City of Trees.

"We're the intro, and we've heard time and time again from many of our clients that they had no idea Boise had this much to offer," she said. "The second thing they say is, 'I could live here,' or 'I could move here.' It's a first step."

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Mike Rosenthal

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