The Thousand Springs Festival of the Arts is the primary fundraiser for the Southern Idaho Land Trust. Recognized as Magic Valley's premier outdoor festival, it is going into its 20th year. Read what the Twin Falls Times-News reported about the 19th annual festival held on Sept. 25 and 26, 2011. Or, view pictures of the festival taken by Times-News photographer Drew Nash.

About the Festival

The Thousand Springs Festival takes place on Ritter Island, a 385-acre parcel that is part of the Thousand Springs State Park located in Hagerman Valley. During the past two years, over 4,000 attendees traveled to the festival. The route to get there, admittedly, is a bit off the beaten path, but once you arrive, park your car and get on the school bus that takes you down a one-lane road into the Snake River Canyon, your cares and worries will evaporate and your spirit will soar.

"This is definitely the best festival in all of southern Idaho," says comedian Danny Marona, who was master of ceremonies for the 16th, 17th,18th and 19th annual festivals. "The setting, the music, the food, the quality of the arts and crafts – it just doesn’t get any better. There is nothing that rivals it."

The event started when neighbors who lived near Ritter Island and members of The Nature Conservancygot together to raise money for the purpose of preserving the island’s astounding natural habitat as a conservation easement. The island is also home to an old-fashioned dairy facility that belonged to one of its early owners.

The 2012 festival will be a special celebration in that it is the 20th anniversary of that 1992 event. In particular, Idaho Power made the purchase of Ritter Island possible with generous loan of $500,000 to the Nature Conservancy, and later Idaho Power even forgave that loan, allowing the Nature Conservancy to continue fundraising. That resulted in the State of Idaho in 2007 adding Ritter Island to its park system with the help of a $1 million endowment from the Conservancy.

Said Gene Day, one of the original organizers of the festival, "We wanted to make this the kind of craft show that you would find nowhere else in Idaho." Nowadays, Day is a board member of the Southern Idaho Land Trust (SILT), a south-central Idaho conservation group that currently runs the festival. SILT uses the proceeds to encourage and maintain conservation easements throughout the region.

Definitely this island is what puts the Thousand Springs Festival out in front, that -- and the volunteers who make this festival work! 

History of Ritter Island

The first recorded history of Ritter Island began with the arrival of French trappers in the 1800s. In 1918 a Salt Lake businesswoman by the name of Minnie Miller purchased the island. She set up what was then a state-of-the-art dairy. She planned to breed the best Guernsey cattle on earth, and she succeeded. The island still features Miller’s buildings. During the festival, people tour the old-fashioned dairy facilities while scientists and local dairy farmers educate the public about the modern dairy industry, which is a mainstay of the Magic Valley economy, adding approximately $200,000 to the westend's economy during the last weeklend of each September.

In 1954 a federal judge by the name of Willis W. Ritter purchased the island and used it as a private hunting reserve. Then in 1986 The Nature Conservancy purchased the property, which includes two miles of river front. The Conservancy maintained it as a wildlife preserve until the organization gifted it to the state of Idaho in 2007. The island is now part of the Thousand Springs State Park complex and is maintained with money from a trust the Conservancy gave to the state of Idaho, along with fundraising efforts such as the Festival.