If you call Gordy Schroeder on his cell phone, you’ll hear the rough voice of Willie Nelson striding up and down the chords of “Highwayman.” Ringback tones are few and far between these days, but it’s fitting that the founder of the Hwy 30 Music Fest keeps his intact.
Gordy’s Hwy 30 Music Fest is a three-day, family-friendly music festival held at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds every summer. It features a little bit of red dirt, a little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll.
“It’s almost like a giant family reunion,” said Gordy. “We get people who come from all over the world to see the shows. Our furthest travelers last year come from Holland.”
Gordy and his wife, Megan, ensure there is truly something for every fan. From bounce houses to climbing walls, beer gardens to food trucks, and cornhole tournaments to cookoffs, kids and adults of all ages can find an activity to pass the time between the performances of their favorite artists. But these fans don’t just show up, party and leave. They treat Hwy 30 like their own home.
“One year, after the last show of the night, I was standing on stage and a fan yelled out to me asking if I had garbage bags,” Gordy recalls. “Before I know it, I looked out at the crowd and they were literally policing the whole area and picking up trash. They even cleaned up the parking lots. The fairgrounds have told us that when our crowd leaves there’s hardly a stitch of garbage left. These fans are truly the greatest fans in the world.”
It’s easy for festival attendees to be invested in the success of the event when the founders care so deeply about the people who travel from near and far to volunteer, enjoy the music or perform on stage.
“I’ve played at a lot of music festivals, but there’s something different about Hwy 30,” said singer-songwriter Sam Riggs. “Gordy and Megan take the time and put in the effort to make sure every single artists that plays there feels like family. They don’t just give us a check and tell us to do our time. Instead, they open their arms to us and spend time with us.”
The Schroeder family’s dedication to community began long before the official Hwy 30 Music Fest came into existence. In fact, the festival itself began with a fundraiser in Fairfield, Idaho.
“Years ago we put together a little concert for the school district,” recalls Gordy. “In a county of 400, we had 1,500 people show up for the show. The next year 3,500 people showed up. When we moved back home to Twin Falls, people kept asking me to organize another concert. So, we started planning it.”
That concert continued to grow. In June 2014, the festival had just over a dozen bands and sold roughly the same number of camping spots. Now, Gordy is planning for almost 25 acts in June 2020 with more than 400 camping spots to accommodate attendees.
“It’s been incredible to see the payoff of the heart, sweat and tears that Gordy and Megan put into this festival,” said Nastasha King, a Hwy 30 Music Fest volunteer. “To see the venue completely packed with fans who stick around until the last song of the night – it’s emotional.”
Party for a good cause
Somehow, amidst planning a family reunion for thousands of people, Gordy and Megan still manage to make philanthropy a top priority through charitable donations, scholarship opportunities and volunteering.
“If somebody’s in need, you help,” said Gordy. “If someone calls, you ask what you can do.”
Gordy is known throughout the Magic Valley for offering his time, vehicles, tickets, prizes and family in any way he can to enrich the lives of others. His willingness to serve the community recently earned him the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce Extra Mile Award, as well as recognition from Idaho Governor Brad Little and Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar.
“Hwy 30 is supportive of the community in a way that you don’t often see from other festivals,” said Beau Burk, vice president of Snake River Pool and Spa, a long-time Hwy 30 sponsor. “They constantly ask how they can help us and they never ask for anything in return. As a sponsor, a business owner and an attendee, it doesn’t get better than that.”
This big-hearted approach to life remains a core value of the Hwy 30 Music Fest, where its unique scholarship program awards three individuals each year with $1,000 to be used towards classes at the College of Southern Idaho.
Although he’s become the festival’s mascot in addition to being its founder, Gordy emphasizes that the hearts of the fans, the bands, the sponsors and the volunteers are what continue to make Hwy 30 Music Fest one-of-a-kind.
“I want everyone to experience something special,” said Gordy. “This is everybody’s music fest. Anyone that shows up. It’s theirs.”