River City Roots: Celebrating Downtown Missoula

Free family festival offers loads of music, art and activities Aug. 23-24

New & Notable

The 14th Annual River City Roots Festival, Aug. 23-24, brings summer in Missoula to a close with loads of great music, kids’ activities, a four-mile run and food and art vendors.

The Honey Island Swamp Band, which formed in San Francisco via New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina displaced the founding members, headlines Friday night. With little hope of returning to their beloved city, the band channeled the blues and emotions of their circumstances to develop a soulful style and sound that critics have compared to legendary blues-roots-rock artists such as The Allman Brothers, Little Feat and The Band.

Leftover Salmon closes out the festival Saturday. For the past quarter-century, this Colorado sextet has established itself as one of the great purveyors of Americana music, digging deep into the well that supplies its influences; rock ‘n roll, folk, bluegrass, Cajun, soul, zydeco, jazz and blues.

Paying homage to the strong Missoula art scene, the Art Show opens at 11 a.m. both days and showcases works by nearly 30 artists from around the region.

Music on Main Street starts at 12:30 p.m. Friday with The Zootown Arts Community Center and its Kids Rock Camp Band on the Main Stage. Local kids’ bands Kings & Queens and Tambourine Queen, who are supported by Tangled Tones Music Studio, take to the Main Stage from 1:15-2 p.m. Missoula’s own Moneypenny performs at 2:30 p.m. followed by Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters and The Black Lillies. The Honey Island Swamp Band performs at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday: Run, Family Fest, and more Main Stage Music

For runners and walkers, Saturday kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a four-mile Fun Run Race. Similar to 2018, the route starts at the intersection of East Main and Higgins, looping runners near Silver Park and the Old Sawmill District and then following the Riverfront Trail to Caras Park. Participants can register at rivercityrootsfestival.com. All registration fees support Run Wild Missoula.

River City Roots Fest logo
River City Roots Fest brings summer to a close with loads of live music, art, food and fun.

The Family Roots Fest begins Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in Caras Park following the conclusion of the run. Families can enjoy entertainment from groups such Missoula Taekwondo Center, On Center Performing Arts, Big Sky ATA, Be Bear Aware, Animal Wonders, Climate Smart Missoula and more, plus dozens of activities.

Continuing Saturday’s Main Stage tradition for young festival attendees, The Whizpops perform at 12:30 p.m. The kid-friendly favorites are followed by Cascade Crescendo, a Guy Clark Tribute featuring Shawn Camp and Verlon Thompson, the Acoustic Syndicate, and Leftover Salmon, performing at 8:30 p.m.

River City Roots Fest aims for sustainability

Festival-goers can bike, walk, and bus to downtown Missoula, thanks to Zero-Fare Mountain Line, and trails and sidewalks throughout the community. For the third-consecutive year, there will be a free bike valet, sponsored by Climate Smart Missoula and Missoula in Motion, and located on Main Street between Ryman and Higgins. Additionally, all public parking will be free of charge throughout Roots Fest weekend, thanks to the Missoula Parking Commission.

Food and beverages are available for sale at the festival. Those who are age 21 and older can purchase a wristband and a signature, reusable Roots Fest cup for $8, and the first drink is free. Roots Fest stainless steel pints are also available and include a wristband and free drink for $15. Almost 20 local food vendors share their wares on Ryman Street and in Caras Park during Family Roots Fest.

To support sustainable practices during the festival, Roots Fest has once again teamed up with Climate Smart Missoula and the City of Missoula to showcase simple actions that leave the festival, community, and planet cleaner, safer, and healthier. Initiatives such as eliminating straws at the Roots Fest Street Bars, hosting a carbon-neutral stage, selling reusable cups, All-in-One Recycling bins and a composting program are just a few of the sustainability initiatives this year.

For more information, head to rivercityrootsfestival.com.