About the Festival
Due to complications at Ritter Island, the 2013 Festival has been moved to Malad Gorge State Park!
During the past few 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, enjoy the free parking and enter the breathtaking large grassy park with mature shade trees. Malad Gorge offers scenic pathways to stunning overlooks which include the Devil's Punchbowl, a swirling cauldron of white water plunging through the narrow cliffs of the gorge.
"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. Danny is planning on coming back to the 2013 Festival.
As Danny stated, "The setting, the music, the food, the quality of the arts and crafts Ė it just doesnít get any better. There is nothing that rivals it." The event started when neighbors who lived near Ritter Island and members of The Nature Conservancy got together to raise money for the purpose of preserving the islandís astounding natural habitat. The island is also home to an old-fashioned dairy facility that belonged to one of its early owners.
Definitely Malad Gorge State Park, Ritter Island, and the rest of the Thousand Springs State Park are what puts the Thousand Springs Festival out in front. 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 Millerís 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.
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 2006. 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.
Ritter Island is a haven for wildlife. Waterfowl use the wetland habitat, especially in the spring and fall. Herons nest on the island, and raptors like golden eagles and prairie falcons nest along the canyon walls. During annual Christmas bird counts, Ritter Island often has one of the highest counts of bird species in Idaho.
Even though the bridge to Ritter Island has termporarily been closed to vehicular traffic, and the 2013 Festival has been moved to Malad Gorge State Park, you can still walk over the bridge and enjoy the natural beauty of the island."