River City Roots Festival blends music, art, fun

Missoula’s free end-of-summer festival rocks Main Street Aug. 26-27

New & Notable

Music, art, food, community: All the ingredients that make up the River City Roots Festival return to the downtown streets Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27. The Missoula Downtown Association’s Signature event is admission-free and features live music, an art show, the Family Roots Fest, the 4-mile Roots Run, and local food vendors.

Louisiana-raised musician Amanda Shaw has carved out her place in Cajun culture, and has become one of the most recognizable brands in Louisiana music.
Amanda Shaw has carved out her place in Cajun culture, becoming one of the most recognizable names in Louisiana music.

“Roots Fest is truly all about Missoula,” said Ellen Buchanan, chair of the Roots Fest Committee and a member of the Missoula Downtown Association Board of Directors. “This festival personifies who we are as a community: an artistic and musical city. Each year we bring something unique to the streets of Downtown, and it’s something that everyone can enjoy thanks to our admission-free model.”

“If you haven’t been to Roots Fest, it’s going to be the perfect year to experience a weekend in Downtown Missoula,” she adds.

Music on Main begins at 12:30 p.m. both days. This year’s lineup features a wide variety of local and national roots music artists with five bands playing each day, beginning (as is the tradition) with music by and for Missoula’s youth. This year is no exception with music from kids’ rock bands on Friday and Cowboy Andy & the Salamanders on Saturday.

Friday is unique this year as each band on the roster is female-fronted. Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters, Laney Lou & the Bird Dogs, and Amy Helm (daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm and singer/songwriter Libby Titus) lead in to headliner Amanda Shaw who previously played Roots Fest in 2010 and 2015.

Saturday’s lineup features Missoula band Off in the Woods, followed by Drew Landry & the North Country Ramblers, The Hillbenders, and headliner Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, which closes out the festival starting at 8:30 p.m.

The Art Show will open the festival at noon on Friday and is open both days, showcasing more than 35 local and regional artists selling hand-made goods, including jewelry, pottery, prints, leather works, wood, paintings, soap, clothing and more. Attendees also have an opportunity to create their own piece of art with help from the Clay Studio of Missoula.

The Roots Run will commence at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on E. Main Street and ends in the newly renovated Caras Park. Produced by Run Wild Missoula, the unique four-mile run has a new route this year, crossing the Clark Fork River four times. Register online at www.runwildmissoula.org/races/river-city-roots-run/.

The Family Fun Fest is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 in Caras Park. Families will find more than 25 local kid-friendly organizations offering activities and performances.

As a showcase of Green Initiatives, Roots Fest features several sustainability including a carbon-neutral stage, compostable materials required for all vendors, reusable drink cups, steel pint commemorative cups, and recycling and composting. Zero-fare bus service and bike parking help reduce the impact of driving and parking and the Green Team provides support thanks to efforts by Climate Smart Missoula. A bike valet, courtesy of Missoula in Motion, will be available from 6-10:30 p.m.

Over a dozen local food trucks will be open on Ryman Street both days. Local favorites such as El Cazador, Kamoon, M-80 Chicken, Mountain Berry Bowls, River City Eats, and The Taco Guy will be among the options. A variety of adult beverages are available too to those with a Roots Fest wristband and cup.

Back again for 2022 is the Unseen Missoula Music Tour: “This Town is Full of Ghosts.” This guided walking tour highlights several destinations in Downtown Missoula that have played a significant role in Missoula’s musical history. Tours are tentatively slated to start at 10 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday;  register or learn more at www.missouladowntown.com/unseen-missoula.

Roots Fest is admission free and accessible for all thanks to over 30 Missoula businesses. Sponsors encourage festival-goers to “Be kind to the volunteers and servers, don’t bring your pets, and enjoy all the wonderful things this festival offers our community.” Although biking, walking or taking a bus to the festival is encouraged parking will be free throughout Downtown on Friday, Aug. 26, thanks to the Missoula Parking Commission.

For more information, visit www.rivercityrootsfestival.com or contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership office via phone (406-543-4238), email ([email protected]) or in person (218 E. Main St.).