YOU'VE POSSIBLY DRIVEN by the quaint, blue sign on Interstate 5 by Salem countless times without giving thought to the anomalous presence of the Enchanted Forest, a fantasy-based theme park created and maintained by a local family. If you didn't grow up in the area and don't have kids of your own, you might not think you'd ever have occasion to visit this charming family attraction. But thanks to a collaboration among the theme park's founding family, music curator Doug Hoffman, and a bevy of local bands, you have a very good reason to experience this uniquely Northwest attraction: the Great Idea.
Now in its third year, the Great Idea music festival transforms the park from a seemingly isolated, somewhat dated spectacle into a vibrant venue for creative expression. It's a single day on the calendar, but the festival's implications resound. Its origins lie with Hoffman, a Salem-based music booker and promoter who's highly committed to bringing music events and experiences to local audiences. As proprietor of the Space, a venue operating in Salem from 2008 to 2010 (and is slated to re-open soon), Hoffman developed relationships with emerging bands as he worked to foster a thriving music scene in a city that is often overshadowed, in public perception at least, by the vibrant activity taking place in Portland.
One such band was Typhoon, at the time on the cusp of the breakthrough of their lush 2010 album, Hunger and Thirst. Another was Derek Vaslev, grandson of Roger Tofte, the man who literally built Enchanted Forest from the ground up. Some history: Tofte envisioned, designed, and constructed the fairy-tale themed park that opened in 1971 in an effort to establish a family-friendly attraction near Salem, an area previously devoid of many recreational opportunities. His children now manage the park facility, and family members like Vaslev seek ways to help the park and its vision continue to thrive. The cross-pollination of connections made by Hoffman was the impetus for the first Great Idea, an outdoor concert across multiple stages that showcased local performers in the unique and inspired environment that is Enchanted Forest.
This year's fest builds on past successes and continues to break new ground. For one, a beer garden sponsored by local craft brewery Gilgamesh marks the first time alcohol will be served on the park's grounds in its 41 years of existence. Every performance will be taped for an upcoming documentary. And for the first time Hoffman himself will partake in the music making, as drummer for the reunited lineup of Salem-based the Apheliotropic Orchestra. The multitude of stellar acts include another appearance from the now-celebrated Typhoon, Northwest legends Quasi, foot-stomping favorites the Builders and the Butchers, and Hustle and Drone, the new electronic project from former Portugal. The Man member Ryan Neighbors.
Hoffman mentions that, while attendance from devout local music fans is essential to the festival, one of his favorite aspects of the Great Idea is the audience found in families who have randomly come to enjoy the park that day. "They get to ride rides and stumble across organic performance areas," he says. "If a kid sees that and says, 'Dad, I want to do that when I get bigger,' my job is done."