Born in 1989, the annual Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival on the third weekend in October delivers five straight days of live music. The event draws between 5,000 and 6,000 jazz connoisseurs from each of the 50 states and several foreign countries. This year’s festivities will run Oct 16-20, 2019 at venues including the Limelight Ballroom and Continental Room at Sun Valley, the Opera House, Satchmo’s, and the River Run Lodge. Forty bands with performances by over 200 musicians will play a variety of music genres from vintage jazz to swing to big band, zydeco, blues, gypsy and more. A festival kickoff party will take place Tuesday the 15that the Limelight Ballroom with a “Roaring ‘20s” theme. Free dance lessons will take place over the weekend at the River Run Lodge including dances like the Lindy Hop and Charleston.
History of the Festival
The Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival was started by Tom Hazzard, a southern California boy who grew up listening to musicians like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and others of the jazz genre. After attending a jazz festival with his wife in 1988, Hazzard was driving back home to Boise when he came up with the idea for a five-day party at Sun Valley Resort with modern-day Dixieland artists struttin’ their stuff, marching band salutes, big band bashes, and swing dancers cutting a rug. Two years after coming up with the idea, the Sun Valley Swing ‘n’ Dixie Jazz Jamboree was born. Tom and Barbara worked with the help of Sun Valley Company General Manager Wally Huffman to plan an annual festival the slowest weekend of the year in town. Now over two decades later, the Festival delights attendees every year.
Several hotels offer lodging discounts to those attending the festival. Sun Valley Resort, where the Jazz Festival is located, is offering discounts at their Inn, Lodge, Wild Flowers, Village Condo, and Deluxe Lodge Apartment. For those looking for a house rental, Natural Retreats and Alpine Lodging both offer discounts to festival attendees. For those looking to stay in Ketchum, discounts are available at Hotel Ketchum, the Tamarack Lodge, Knob Hill Inn, Limelight Hotel, Best Western Plus and Best Western Tyrolean Lodge. In Hailey, Wood River Inn & Suites, the AmericInn, and Airport Inn offer discount lodging for the Jazz Festival.
Traveling to the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival in an RV is another option and there are a few places to camp. Official Festival RV parking is available at River Run Lodge where you will be charged a non-refundable RV registration fee. This area does not have hookups and the Festival site has tips on how to do “dry camping”. Camping is available north of town by the SNRA as well.
With musicians performing all day, festival-goers are free to come and go as they please and grab food from nearby restaurants. The Sun Valley Village, located adjacent to the Festival, has numerous options like the family-friendly Village Station, upscale restaurant and bar The Ram, casual, Austrian-inspired breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Konditorei, to-go food from the Short Line Deli, and treats like milkshakes and ice cream from A La Mode. In the Lodge are the Duchin Lounge, great for appetizers and cocktails, and Gretchen’s, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Numerous options are available just a short drive, walk, bike, or bus ride into Ketchum.
With so many bands and a full five days to see them, some festival attendees might want to take a break to see the beauty of fall in Sun Valley. There are lots of options for other activities like golfing at the Sun Valley Resorts several courses, doing local hikes, renting a mountain bike or road bike to see the town, fly fishing, or even just taking a scene drive up to Galena Lodge or Stanley to the north or Hailey and Bellevue to the south.