The highly anticipated annual event returns to downtown Sandpoint By Taylor Shillam
Carolyn Gleason started Lost in the ‘50s with a dream of bringing legendary artists to the Sandpoint community. That dream has continued for over three decades, bringing celebrated artists, music lovers and classic car enthusiasts from across the country and earning the title of Sandpoint’s “biggest party of the year.”
On May 20 and 21, Lost in the ‘50s returns to celebrate its 35th year. For Gleason, who has been a local business owner for 50 years, the event has always been motivated by a desire to preserve the era of rock ’n’ roll for generations to come.
She was determined to put on the 35th year of Lost in the ‘50s “no matter what,” following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. She now looks forward to a two-day event packed with “everything they possibly could” to celebrate.
“We’ll have the parade, the street dance for the kids, and powerhouse performers,” she said. The part she’s most excited for? “My lineup is awesomely cool.”
That lineup includes Bill Medley and the Righteous Brothers, Rocky and the Rollers, and Darlene Love, this year’s Friday night performer whom Gleason calls the “epitome of rock ’n’ roll.”
“She’s done it all,” Gleason said. "She’s been in the movies, on Broadway in Hairspray and Grease, recorded numerous records, and was the lead singer in three different girl groups.” Love is a Grammy winner and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “She embodies what the whole rock ’n’ roll era means.”
For a rock ‘n’ roll lover like Gleason, that era means a lot. “I love the era. I love the music,” she said. Before Lost in the ‘50s, she would spend a lot of time at home with her expansive collection of 45s, cassettes, CDs and records.
She then became driven to create an event that would celebrate the rock ‘n’ roll era and the artists she loved for the whole community. “The whole original idea was to bring these artists to small-town America and put on something that is real.”
Lost in the ‘50s now draws people of all ages and backgrounds together to connect as a community. Many of those people return year after year, building on decades-long relationships.
Each year, an award is given to whoever traveled the furthest to attend the event, as Lost in the ‘50s has seen travelers from Tennessee, Missouri, California, Arizona, Canada, and more.
Gleason makes the event trophies herself, for a total of over 70 each year. “I started out with trophies that are handmade, using old car parts,” she said. She’s also hand-made event tables and even built the stage. “Each year, I try to evaluate what we do and how it can be safer and better. You have to keep evolving and do whatever you can to make it.”
Countless hours of hard work have gone into making Lost in the ‘50s what it is now, from Gleason herself and the “small army” that gathers to help. Even still, the motivation behind the event has never wavered—only grown stronger through time.
“It’s the connection that Lost in the ‘50s has with the people that has kept it going,” Gleason described, along with the decades of memories made. “People have gotten married here and met their spouses here,” she said. One year, they helped a young man in the parade pull over so he could propose to his girlfriend.
“Every time I hear someone’s story, I think, ‘This is what keeps the drive going.’ If you can make someone’s day, or make a whole lot of people’s days, that’s a pretty cool feeling.” Gleason has called support for the return of Lost in the ‘50s nothing short of awesome, between fundraising, event preparation, and the response on social media. “People are excited to have it back, and that excites me, that our downtown area has really dug in when I’ve called for boots on the ground. They’ve been fantastic.”
Lost in the ‘50s operates as a nonprofit organization. “I’m not here to make a profit,” Gleason said. “I don’t care about making money, I just care about offering thousands of people in this town something that defines togetherness—coming together and loving what is happening in your area.”
She looks forward to bringing Lost in the ‘50s to the community she loves for another year and sharing it with those who attend from near and far. “I feel very fortunate and very lucky that I’ve been able to do this for 35 years,” she said. “It’s your home, your party, your town. I just get to be the director.”