Boise Festivals and Events

Eagle Island Experience - A Good Ol' Hippie Jam Fest

If you're reading this, you're probably wondering what exactly the Eagle Island Experience is. Good question. The name is kind of cryptic, that's for sure. With a name like that, it could be a hiking or horseback tour of the 545-acre state park's grounds and wild areas. It could be a day spent swimming in the small river-fed lake or enjoying the playground or water slide. It could even be a day spent fishing or playing volleyball, horseshoes, or disc golf. But it's not. In fact, it's not even close to any of those.

You only need two words to describe the Eagle Island Experience: hippie fest. If you're into tie-dye shirts, no shirts at all, hula hoops, dogs, weird art, and live music, this is the event for you. If you're not into that stuff but your friends are, well, at least there's beer, which a) makes the time go by faster, and b) makes all your hippie jokes funnier.

The "Experience", as the kids call it, has been happening since 2001, with a mysterious sabbatical in 2003 and 2004. It offers all the usual stuff associated with a fair environment: food and drink booths, craft vendors, art stations, and musical performances. The real stars of this show, however, are the people around you. When you start thinking your friends and family are flaky, obtuse, or just plain weird, an event like this always makes you realize that you and yours are the veritable cream of the crop, relatively speaking. And this effect only intensifies as the air temperature rises. If the weather is nice and warm, you'll see more unadulterated paunches, fatback, thunder thighs, tattoos, wrinkles, and cellulite than good taste allows, which is both an amusing and frightening prospect. Some of that loveliness will even be gyrating within a hula hoop or showing off groovular moves worthy of the best evening at Alive After Five. I assure you it's a night terror waiting to happen.

The festival used to have a vaguely commercial aspect to it, namely a $6 entry fee per person. You might wonder, as I did, how hippies and today's youth could afford the state park fee plus the $6 to get into the event. I always figured that because the state park fee is per vehicle, they could pile about twenty brothers and sisters in the Vanagon, making the per person cost about four nickels. As for the $6 entry fee, I'm still puzzled how they all came up with that. They probably did the same thing they do when they need to rustle up some tattoo or puppy money, whatever that is. If kids under 12 weren't always free, there probably would've been more incidents like the 40-something muffin-topped woman in front of me at the gate. She refused to believe they were actually charging money to get into the event. "That's not right," she said, turning to everyone behind her in line. "When are they going to learn that you can't eat stock certificates!" She then forked over the $6 and headed for the fried cinnamon roll vendor.

Fortunately, that lady no longer has to fight the good fight, because last year the festival organizers changed gears and made the festival free to attend. You still have to pay the state park fee, which is currently at $5, but the whole 'free' aspect now lines up better with commune living, utopianism, Bohemian poverty, and all the other hippie descriptors we all know and cherish.

If you go, remember that footwear is optional -- nay discouraged -- and free love in the overflow parking area is a frightening possibility, especially after dark. Peace.

Event: Eagle Island Experience
Where: Eagle Island State Park

View Larger Map
When: Every May
Cost: $5 per vehicle to get in the park
Website: Eagle Island Experience
Why I love it: The people watching is priceless