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Get ready for Treefort: a tradition for the city and for Boise State

Treefort Music Fest began in 2012, an event with 137 bands playing in 13 venues. In the years since, the fest has tripled the number of bands and venues. It added mini forts beyond its diverse musical offerings – Hackfort, Storyfort, Filmfort, Yogafort, Alefort to name a few – and has become a signature event for Boise and the university.

Treefort is back after a COVID hiatus. It takes place Wednesday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 26. As always, Boise State is well-represented in the festival ranks. That includes Treefort co-founder and MBA graduate Drew Lorona, Storyfort co-founder and MFA graduate Christian Winn, and many others. This year, several Boise State staff members are playing key roles.

We caught up with two of them to hear about their work and a few things we should watch for at this year’s festival.

Mike Taylor, web analyst for the Boise State Office of Information Technology and assistant director of Hackfort

Mike Taylor. Photo courtesy of Mike Taylor.

Taylor describes Hackfort as a digital humanities conference. It’s not a normal tech event where most people in the audience are engineers and web developers.

“It’s a lot more broad, and with more of a human element. You don’t have to be working in the tech field, just be a fan of it,” said Taylor, who’s working alongside Hackfort director and Bronco alum Sean Wakeley on this year’s program.

Hackfort will take place at the Boise Centre with workshops at Trailhead. Boise State’s Esports team will livestream Hackfort on its Twitch channel and host a panel on collegiate Esports. The university’s Games, Interactive Media and Mobile program will present a showcase of student work.

Taylor shared a few of his picks from the program:

  • Secret Chord Laboratories, a company that develops software to predict how people will respond to music, will present a talk on the neuroscience of music and host a workshop on its AI platform that analyzes music. (1 p.m., Sept. 24, Boise Centre).
  • Luke Mayville (Boise State faculty) and alum Cam Crow (Boise State alum) will host a workshop “Creating a Movement for Change” (noon, Sept. 25, Trailhead). Crow and Mayville founded Reclaim Idaho which led a grassroots campaign to expand Medicaid in Idaho.
  • “How to See Through Walls” is a panel with the founders of Lumineye, a Boise State-born company that invented a lightweight sensor that can detect the presence of people through walls that can assist firefighters, the military, law enforcement, and search and rescue teams (3 p.m., Sept. 24, Boise Centre).

“There’s not one boring talk. I wish I could go to all of them,” Taylor said.

Tickets: Hackfort entry is included with Treefort passes. Attendees without passes can buy a Hackfort badge for $30.

Celeste Giordani, international enrollment counselor and volunteer and nonprofit coordinator for Treefort

Celeste Giordani, Peter Lovera photo.

Giordani first got involved as an intern for Treefort during her senior year at Boise State. She applied on a whim, she said. By 2019, she had stepped into the role of volunteer coordinator. This year, she is also a liaison with a growing list of local nonprofits that will be part of Treefort Gives, an effort to increase civic engagement. Six organizations, the Idaho Trails Association, the Idaho Humane Society, the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, Inclusive Idaho, the Snake River Alliance and Jesse Tree of Idaho will have interactive booths near the Main Stage. Boise Bicycle Project, the Boise Hive – an organization providing rehearsal space and mental health services for musicians – are also participating.

Giordani and her team work with around 800 Treefort volunteers each year. They coordinate logistics, make sure sites are staffed, and make sure that volunteers have a positive experience at the festival. She sees a natural connection between the university and Treefort.

“They share an overlapping passion for creating something in the community,” Giordani said. The festival also benefits students, offering an “avenue to explore creative pursuits in a way many haven’t had access to.” That’s especially true for first-year students who haven’t yet experienced anything like Treefort.

For those students, Giordani shared some advice: “Even if you’ve never heard of the bands, or of Treefort itself, just walk downtown. Chances are you’ll be pulled into a venue – many are free – or see a street artist. You’ll get a different view of Boise that you won’t have by staying on campus.”

Treefort is still seeking volunteers, a “great way to experience the festival from a different perspective,” Giordani said.

Volunteers pay a $30 registration fee and receive a general admission wristband and a Treefort t-shirt. Volunteers are required to work three shifts throughout the festival. Volunteers under 21 are required to work two shifts and sign ups are online.

Note: new COVID safety precautions are in place this year. All attendees, vendors, staff, artists, volunteers, performers and anyone aged 12 and older will need to have proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test.