best free event
Parents and children dance together at a Ketch'em Alive concert in July 2015.
Photo by Roland Lane
where memories are made
Summer concert series voted 'Best Free Event.'
Wood River Valley resident and event organizer Will Caldwell has seen it all at what Sun Valley Guide readers voted the valley's Best Free Event, Ketch'em Alive.
"Proposals, parties." Then he breaks into song, "People, hitting on people."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Well, isn't that what summer nights are all about?" he said, smiling.
When asked what he thought was the secret to the event's long-term success, he replied, "Ketch'em Alive is about bringing the community together and the mixture of people, young and old."
Go to any of the Tuesday night concerts—held weekly during the summer months from June through August at Forest Service Park in Ketchum—and one will see all sorts of people boogying under the shadow of Baldy.
"The young people left their keg parties in the canyon when they realized the music was good," Caldwell said. "And in the past few years, the older folks realized that the music isn't just for the young."
It's amazing to see such a mix of age groups enjoying time together, he said.
"Grandpas dancing with grandchildren. But the most precious thing is to see parents dancing with children."
The event brings in performers from around the West who play a wide range of music.
"Our bands are very diverse," Caldwell said. "But we choose them with one thing in mind: to get people dancing."
Indeed, Caldwell claims it's the focus on the dancing, the community atmosphere and the memories being crafted that keeps Ketch'em Alive consistently among the medalists in the Best of the Valley series.
"We compete with the Sun Valley Symphony for the Best Free Event and Best Live Venue," he laughed. "One year, the symphony wins one category, and we win the other. And then the next year, we switch places."
Caldwell jokes but his statement speaks to the well-deserved and popular local support for the two popular events. And, for Ketch'em Alive, it's been a long road.
"It's all about that connection between people and the music during the best time of the year."
Will Caldwell, event founder
When asked how Ketch'em Alive came to be, he explained proudly that the event was started "in the last century," which was actually 16 years ago. Before he brought the event to Forest Service Park, valley music lovers used to convene at Trail Creek Cabin in Sun Valley.
"We danced in the meadow," Caldwell said. "Those were the best nights of the summer."
When the Trail Creek concerts could no longer be held, Caldwell went to Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carol Waller and suggested the Ketch'em Alive series.
"Carol said, 'Great idea!'" Caldwell recalled. "You do it!"
Caldwell is quick to mention that Ketch'em Alive wouldn't have been possible if not for the support of the former chamber of commerce and other altruistic people in the valley.
"I birthed it," he said.
And it is now an official city of Ketchum event.
"But," added Caldwell, "it wouldn't be around if not for the support of local people and businesses in the community."
And it's founder, of course.
"It's a labor of love for me," he said. "Ketch'em Alive is part of my identity now."
Indeed, Caldwell, a longtime and well-known valley artist, embodies the spirit of Ketch'em Alive, with his passionate commitment to this well-loved community event.
"It's all about that connection between people and the music during the best time of the year," he said. "After all, every summer night is precious."
And Ketch'em Alive gives summer memories a soundtrack.