Sun Valley History: The wagons of Wagon Days

The 55th Wagon Days parade takes place tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. In honor of the event, The Valley Sun’s guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy digs into the history behind the centerpiece of the parade, The Big Hitch, also known as the Lewis Ore Wagons, the only wagons of their kind in existence today.

The 2013 Wagon Days poster by Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder showcases the majestic beauty of the Lewis Ore Wagons. Click on the poster to purchase a copy.

On August 15, 1958, Katherine Lewis rode down Ketchum’s Main Street as the Queen of the very first Wagon Days Parade. It was her 85th birthday, and the town she had called home for seven decades was honoring her in a way only this town could. Behind her snaked a line of seven unique ore wagons that had been pulled out of storage especially in honor of Ketchum’s grande dame.

As Kate, as she was known, watched the giant wagons rumble through town for the first time in over a decade her thoughts likely travelled back through the years to the story behind this remarkable sight. A story that began, as many stories of the Wild West do, with the quest for gold.

In May of 1879, David Ketchum arrived in Idaho’s Wood River Valley searching for metallic treasures in its mountains. Although he discovered the first lead and silver deposits in the area, Ketchum left a few months later. But many came behind him, chasing the same dream, and on August 2, 1880, the town of Ketchum was born.

One of those who followed in Ketchum’s footsteps was Issac Lewis. But he didn’t come just to mine, he came to build a community. Hailing from Butte, Montana, Lewis was a banker and a businessman and – as many businessmen did in those days – he saw an opportunity to create a community out of this town of dusty mining tents and dirty miners. He quickly invested in real estate, opened the town’s first drug store, helped build the Gueyer Hot Springs Resort, purchased the weekly newspaper, and constructed the town’s first bank. In his own words he “virtually made the town.” The effort Issac put into building Ketchum is still visible in the form of the First National Bank building which still stands on Main Street.

Issac’s son, Horace, soon joined him from Montana, along with his wife, Katherine. They settled on the brand new Lewis Ranch, which extended from just east of what is now Spruce Avenue in Ketchum to the mouth of Trail Creek Canyon. Horace, looking out at the daunting mountains surrounding his new home, spied another investment opportunity for his family: transporting the lead and silver from the valleys beyond into the new railroad-town of Ketchum.

The Lewis Ore Wagons remain a centerpiece of the valley's history. Alongside Bald Mountain they are one of the most recognizable features of the former mining town of Ketchum. Photo courtesy Sun Valley Resort.

In 1884 he formed the Ketchum & Challis Toll Road company to construct a road over the precipitous Trail Creek Summit and built a chain of massive wagons known as the Ketchum Fast Freight Line. A testament to human engineering and masterful animal husbandry, these giant wagons carried between 18,000 and 24,000 pounds of ore along a road no wider than a wagon. They careened around hairpin turns and teetered along sheer ledges on giant six-foot wheels, covering 12 to 14 miles per day. Built to withstand the stresses of traversing the summit loaded with ore, the wagons were daisy chained together and powered by a team of draft mules, chosen for their temperament, strength and stamina. This awesome combination of metal, wood and beast was masterfully controlled by a unique craftsman, the mule skinner. Using a jerk-line, a rein approximately 100 feet long attached to each member of the team, the mule skinner controlled as many as 20 mules at a time through a series of distinct whips and jerks.

This video demonstrates the skill of the mule skinner, showing how each mule in the team of up to twenty, must be commanded to perform a different task. (Not displaying? Click here.)

At the height of the mining activity in the Wood River, Big Lost, and Salmon River valleys the Ketchum Fast Freight Line employed 700 mules and 30 wagons to haul 700,000 pounds of ore to the Philadelphia Smelter on Warm Springs Road annually. There it was turned from raw ore into precious metal and shipped down the Oregon Short Line railroad.

Between 1880 and 1885 approximately $12 million worth of lead and silver left the valley. By 1902, when rail service to Mackay and Challis arrived, the Ketchum Fast Freight Line became obsolete and in 1909 the wagons were retired for good. Two years later Horace passed away.

For a couple years, the wagons sat sadly in a barn on the Lewis Ranch. Then, in 1911, Horace’s widow, Katherine, sold the ranch to Ernest Brass, moving down the road to a house in town. Her home is also still standing, currently occupied by the Elephant’s Perch sporting goods shop.

Kate Lewis's moved into this home in Ketchum in 1911. It is now the Elephant's Perch sporting goods store. Photo from Google Maps.

Connoisseurs of the history of Sun Valley Resort will have already made the connection in this story. That ranch between Ketchum and Trail Creek, which Kate sold to the Brass family, had a grander future in store.

For the next 20 years Ernest Brass and his large family struggled to get by. In January 1936, after losing half his herd to an appetite for the poisonous purple larkspur, Brass met a handsome foreigner named Count Felix Schaffgotsch. Schaffgotsch was on a scouting mission for Averell Harriman, searching for the perfect spot at the end of a railroad track on which the president of Union Pacific Railroad could build a luxurious ski lodge. Brass Ranch was that spot. In April, Ernest Brass sold his 3,888 acres to Union Pacific for $39,000. That December the Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors. Among the names on the guest list for opening night was Katherine Lewis.

The wagons on the other hand, were not invited to the party. Mining had long since been replaced in the valley’s economy by sheep, who had no need for breakneck rides down mountain sides. These giant emblems of Ketchum’s past sat in a rapidly crumbling barn along what is now Sun Valley Road until 1925 when one of the valley’s last teamsters, Sam Sanders, brought them out for the Fourth of July parade, and then one more time in 1940 for the Sun Valley Rodeo. For the next 15 years the wagons were left silent and forgotten. Then, in 1958, the city of Ketchum was looking for a way to honor its founding mother Kate Lewis’ 85th birthday. What better way to do that than to resurrect the source of her family’s fortunes, the Lewis Ore Wagons, and parade them through town, in what became known as the first Wagon Days parade.

In October 1958, two months after riding triumphantly through Ketchum, Kate Lewis passed away. Her nephew Palmer G Lewis, donated the wagons to the city on the condition that they be displayed once a year to commemorate Idaho’s mining heritage, and so the annual event that is Wagon Days was born.

In 1985 the wagons were given their very own home, a museum designed and built especially to house them, and allow them to be on display year round. The city has kept its promise to the Lewis family, and trots out these massive symbols of American history annually (barring wildfire and city politics) for the grand finale to the Wagon Days Parade. Held Labor Day weekend, the event has extended into a 5 day festival celebrating the area’s heritage, but the Saturday parade at 1 p.m. is still the centerpiece, and the Lewis Ore Wagons’ hair-raising trip down Sun Valley Road and around the corner onto Main Street is still the highlight. If she could see what “her town” has become, and the smiles of joy the parade brings to the thousands who gather to watch the largest non-motorized parade in the West, Kate would be so very proud.

Jennifer Tuohy

Preserving this unique and irreplaceable relic of history is a costly effort. As the Lewis Ore Wagons near their 130th birthday, the Wagon Days Committee is looking to raise $10,000 to help maintain the wagons through an indiegogo campaign. Donate to the campaign here.

For a full schedule of events this Wagon Days’ weekend go hereFor a list of the 100 unique wagons from across the West participating in the 2013 Wagon Days’ parade click here.  

 

I Can See Clearly Now

Blue skies and picture perfect weather welcomed diners to lunch at Roundhouse Restaurant Thursday

Blue skies and picture perfect weather welcomed diners to lunch at Roundhouse Restaurant Thursday

The weather Thursday was bluebird skies, scattered white fluffy clouds, bright sunshine and no smoke: the perfect day to kick off Labor Day weekend by hopping on the River Run gondola to ascend to a barbecue lunch with the best view in town.  Sailing over the single track mountain bike trails and ski runs, the ride on the gondola is beyond scenic. As you soar above the tree line, the majestic Pioneer Mountains provide a sublime vista to the east, while the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley take form in miniature below.

But getting there is only half the fun when you decide to have lunch at the historic Roundhouse restaurant. Perched at 7,700-feet above Ketchum, Roundhouse says Sun Valley like nothing else. With its rustic interior, vast decks and unparalleled views, a meal there shouldn’t be missed.

The view is unbeatable from the Roundhouse deck -- and the barbecue lunch lives up to its surroundings

The view is unbeatable from the Roundhouse deck -- and the barbecue lunch lives up to its surroundings

Roundhouse just reopened for the rest of the summer season and will serve a tasty, varied barbecue menu through September 8. Choose from traditional beef burgers or veer into the more esoteric: buffalo burgers, chicken burgers, veggie burgers (my choice – delicious!), bratwursts and entrée salads. Sides include homemade coleslaw, potato salad, fruit salad or chips. Enjoy a beer, wine, cocktail or soft drink with your sophisticated picnic on the deck.

From Friday to Monday, the Lookout Restaurant atop Baldy will also offer its wildly popular taco bar at lunch to those enjoying a hike, bike ride or sightseeing trip on the mountain. Lift service to Lookout begins where the gondola lets off to get riders to the tip top of the hill.

A gondola ride up to the historic Roundhouse for lunch is a must-do Sun Valley activity

A gondola ride up to the historic Roundhouse for lunch is a must-do Sun Valley activity

Lunch with a view is just one of many must-do activities to put on your Labor Day weekend “to-do” list. One of the busiest holidays of the year in Sun Valley, there are parades to delight; antiques and art to browse and buy; cars to covet; pancakes of which to partake.

The annual multi-day celebration that is Wagon Days is jam-packed. Starting Friday, Arts, Crafts and Antiques Fairs can be found up and down the Valley. From 4 – 7 p.m. that day, cowboy poets, old-time fiddling, western music and more will delight at the Ore Museum in Ketchum with concerts from Matt Renner and the band Slow Children Playing to follow.  Also Friday night, local art galleries will open their doors and welcome lookers and buyers from 5 – 8 p.m.

The "Big Hitch," made up of six enormous ore wagons is a sight to behold and the grand finale of Saturday's parade

The "Big Hitch," made up of six enormous ore wagons, is a sight to behold as the grand finale of Saturday's parade

Saturday is the big show with many events leading up to Wagon Days‘ famous Big Hitch Parade. Starting at 8 a.m., bring the entire family to Ketchum for an old-fashioned, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with all proceeds benefiting local youth groups. The kids can work off that carb-fueled energy at a children’s carnival featuring mini train rides, astro jumps, a climbing wall, bungee run and more.

At 1 p.m. the Big Hitch Parade rolls down Sun Valley Road. This, the largest non-motorized parade in the Northwest, features museum quality buggies, carriages, carts, stagecoaches and wagons that illustrate and honor the tenacity of the area’s early settlers. Six gigantic Lewis Ore Wagons, the Big Hitch, pulled by a 20-mule jerkline, offer the eye popping grand finale. Music and festivity in Ketchum extend well into the night following the parade.

The Great Wagon Days Duck Race also follows at Rotary Park. A favorite of children of all ages, this event launches thousands of plastic ducks into to Big Wood River to ‘race,’ all while benefiting local non-profits.

Sun Valley's Silver Car Auction is eye candy for anyone who loves fabulous four-wheelers

Sun Valley's Silver Car Auction is eye candy for anyone who loves fabulous four-wheelers

In Sun Valley, on both Saturday and Sunday, be sure to come by the Silver Car Auction beginning at 9 a.m. 250 collector car owners and dealers display and auction off unique and beautiful cars until 8 p.m. There is eye candy for everyone from admirers of classic cars to sports cars and is a must-see for aficionados of every persuasion.

While in Sun Valley, be sure to stop into the Konditorei or Gretchen’s for a delicious breakfast or lunch, or grab gourmet sandwiches to go at the Short Line Deli followed by a special ice cream treat at a la mode. Village restaurants will be serving dinner over the weekend, too – the perfect way to unwind and enjoy the best in local flavors and handcrafted recipes after a very busy day.

And then there is the final Sun Valley on Ice show of the year starring Johnny Weir, rodeos, more live music, a hoedown, western dance – not to mention golf, biking, hiking, tennis, horseback riding, the Gun Club, fly fishing, swimming …! There is so much to do, it’s a good thing it’s a long weekend.

The Great Wagon Days Duck Race is a spectacle and fun for children of all ages!

The Great Wagon Days Duck Race is a spectacle and fun for children of all ages!

We can’t wait to see everyone out in Sun Valley and Ketchum enjoying glorious weather (the forecast looks great), a fantastic array of events and fun for everyone. We are all so grateful that Wagon Days is on and better than ever and can’t wait to share this spectacular weekend, as well as our own very special, very active version of normal, with our guests. It’s going to be a great Labor Day weekend!

To borrow shamelessly from the incomparable Johnny Nash, Jimmy Nash and others, “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day…”

–RES

Let the Healing Begin

A group of firefighters enjoys the well wishes of the community at the picnic Sunday night

A group of firefighters enjoyed the well wishes of the community at the picnic Sunday night

For those of us who hold the Wood River Valley in a special place in their hearts, there really aren’t enough superlatives to describe how we feel about the firefighters who worked so hard to protect this one-of-a-kind place earlier this month.

According to Vicki Minor, Director of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the affinity and admiration we hold for the heroes of the Beaver Creek Fire is reciprocated. Following Sunday night’s barbecue and concert at the River Run Plaza to honor and thank the firefighters, Minor received feedback unlike any she has ever heard.

“A lot of emotional healing started for our people at the base of Bald Mountain this weekend,” Minor said during a phone interview from her headquarters in Boise. “For this community to turn around after such a stressful experience and give tribute to our wildland firefighters … it was like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. I don’t know if you know what your tribe up there did for our tribe.”

More than 2,000 brave firefighters battled the blaze that threatened the Wood River Valleytwo weeks ago

More than 2,000 brave firefighters battled the blaze that threatened the Wood River Valley

For the men and women whose job it is to walk toward scenes like this one out Greenhorn Gulch, the tribute they received from the community was met with heartfelt appreciation

For the men and women whose job it is to walk toward scenes like this one out Greenhorn Gulch, the tribute they received from the community was met with heartfelt appreciation

Minor explained it’s been a particularly deadly and tragic wildland firefighting season, with 32 valiant firefighters lost. “I deal with death and tragedy and this was a very healing experience,” she said, “we’ve never been treated so well.”

Sunday evening’s events invited all firefighters and their families to enjoy a full western barbecue, drinks and entertainment, courtesy of Sun Valley. “The food was amazing. The crowd was amazing. It was a night to remember,” Minor said. “No one could believe Sun Valley and community there were doing all of this for them.”

To thank firefighters Sunday night, the food was plentiful, delicious and free

To thank firefighters Sunday night, the food was plentiful, delicious and free

According to Minor, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is also amazed by the monetary support of the Wood River Valley. “The money hasn’t stopped rolling in,” she said. “The generosity of this community is unparalleled.” Monies raised at the special presentation of Sun Valley On Ice Saturday night, at the barbecue Sunday night, as well as contributions coming directly to the Boise office totaled more than $30,000 as of Monday afternoon. As we spoke, Minor exclaimed, “I just opened another $2,500 check from Sun Valley.”

Many contributions were not large, but were no less meaningful to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. During the ice show Saturday night, for instance, many children put a handful of small bills into the collection jar, one explaining that is was tooth fairy money he wanted to give to the heroes.

A double rainbow greeted the firefighters at River Run -- things were definitely looking up

A double rainbow greeted the firefighters at River Run -- things were definitely looking up

Every donation, no matter how large or small, counts. “This money will help so many firefighters and their families in an immediate, tangible way,” Minor said.

One big check delivered on Sunday evening came from Cox Communications. In addition to donating $5,000 to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Minor said Cox also provided an invaluable service to the fire teams at the height of the crisis. Within 24-hours of the creation of the Incident Command Post, the local team of the communications company moved in to provide wireline Internet connections. This served not only to allow incident managers to get out incredibly timely information about the fire, it also served another critical purpose.

“In this very scary fire season, families quickly get worried when they don’t hear from their firefighter,” Minor explained. “What Cox did in this case was give the more than 2,000 firefighters at the camp the ability to easily call home which was invaluable.”

Guy Cherp of Cox Communications (right) presents a check to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, one of many given over the course of the weekend

Guy Cherp of Cox Communications (right) presents a check to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, one of many donations made over the course of the weekend

Guy Cherp, Vice President of Operations at Cox, who presented the check Sunday night said, “Cox was honored to provide a means for firefighters to communicate with loved ones.” He continued, “It was impressive to work with the great people fighting the fire, which includes our Wood River Valley firefighters. Cox is deeply grateful and appreciative of the firefighters putting their life on the line to protect our community and we were so moved by their heroic efforts that we wanted to support them.”

“The fire season isn’t over yet,” Minor said, “but Sun Valley’s response to our people made the rest of the journey for these people so much better. We saw a whole community come together to take care of each other and to take care of us. This was medicine for the firefighters’ souls.”

–RES

Sun Valley Salutes Firefighters and Looks Forward to Labor Day

The simple sign at the base of River Run said it all Sunday night

The simple sign at the base of River Run said it all Sunday night

The intermittent heavy rain that fell this weekend offered more than a hint of the poetic following the raging wildfires that threatened the Wood River Valley just a week ago. As the moisture swept through in waves during Saturday night’s Sun Valley On Ice show that benefited the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, and again on Sunday, during a huge picnic and concert at River Run honoring the 2,000-plus heroes who fought the behemoth Beaver Creek Fire, there was no question there was change in the air. With her thunderous announcements in the evening sky, Mother Nature proclaimed that Sun Valley had turned a corner – that it’s time, again, to look ahead.

Visitors and locals mingled with fire professionals at the base of River Run, looking forward to enjoying the rest of the summer

Visitors and locals mingled with fire professionals at the base of River Run and looked forward to enjoying the rest of the summer

Sunday evening’s party at the base of Baldy’s River Run drew firefighters from all over the state and country who were part of the Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1. It also drew our local heroes from the Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and Wood River Fire Departments. To say thank you, Sun Valley distributed 565 tickets to firefighters and their families, providing a full western barbecue and beverages, all for free.

A little rain couldn't keep the crowd away from the party at River Run where locals and visitors were able to thank firefighters in person

A little rain couldn't keep the crowd away from the party at River Run

In the light drizzle, the firefighters, still in uniform, looked relaxed and happy, enjoying live music from local bands Up a Creek and Old Death Whisper. They shook hands with appreciative locals and visitors alike and by all accounts, greatly enjoyed the party thrown in their honor.

“We thought we’d have the picnic to bring the entire community together to thank the firefighters,” said Jack Sibbach, Head of Sun Valley Marketing. “This fire affected the entire Wood River Valley and this was a great opportunity for everyone to gather in one place and say thank you. It’s also the time for all of us to now look forward to the rest of the summer and the fall.”

At the storied Sun Valley ice show Saturday night, the fire’s Incident Commander Beth Lund also expressed her appreciation for the huge turnout, the support for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and for the Valley that so clearly valued her team’s efforts. She reiterated how dangerous a job it is to fight these fires and how organizations like the Wildland Firefighter Foundation provide critical help to families who suffer a loss or an injury amid the unpredictable flames.

Admission to Saturday's Sun Valley On Ice was free, but donations were accepted on behalf of the Wildland Firefighters Foundation

Admission to Saturday's Sun Valley On Ice was free, but donations were accepted on behalf of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

The cast of Sun Valley On Ice then emerged under the lights wearing fire hats and skated from the heart, honoring the events of the past weeks. The show was provided free to guests with a suggested donation to the firefighters.

Sun Valley truly has turned a corner; skies are clear, the sun is shining. Those short-lived evening rain showers washed away any remaining ash and soot and changed the entire feeling up and down the Wood River Valley.

Starting Wednesday, jump on the gondola and head up to Roundhouse for lunch with a pretty spectacular view

Starting Wednesday, jump on the gondola and head up to Roundhouse for lunch with a pretty spectacular view

Now it’s time to end the summer on a high note. Bald Mountain reopens to foot, bike and gondola traffic on Wednesday, August 28.  The gondola will run daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and the deck at Roundhouse Restaurant will offer a daily barbecue. There is no more scenic place to eat. Beginning Friday, the famous taco bar at Lookout also makes and end-of-summer, back-by-popular demand appearance.

Sun Valley has extended its sale on winter passes through September 15. Don’t miss this opportunity to save up to $350 on what promises to be an amazing snow season. This year, there are seven passes from which to choose, including a new Young Adult Pass, as well as a new installment payment plan for select products. Come by the River Run Ticketing Office, buy a $15 ticket for the gondola and check out what’s new for the coming season!  While you’re at River Run Plaza, be sure to also pop into Brass Ranch and check out the sale in progress.

The centerpiece of the Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade is something you have to see to believe

The centerpiece of the Big Hitch Wagon Days Parade is something you have to see to believe

For Labor Day weekend, it’s on! Festivities begin in earnest on Friday and run all the way through the Monday holiday. Highlights include: an antique car show and auction, Rebecca Rusch’s Private Idaho bike tour, pancake breakfasts in Ketchum, the final ice show of the season featuring crowd favorite Johnny Weir, rodeos, antique and art shows, an Art Gallery walk, a western shoot-out, and of course, the Big Hitch Parade. Be sure to be in Sun Valley during one of the best Labor Day celebrations in the nation.

And it’s not over after Labor Day! September in Sun Valley is a spectacular month during which to golf, hike, bike, fly fish … you name it. This year, it is also a spectacular month for music. Tickets are on sale now for Reckless Kelly, playing September 6 at the Sun Valley Pavilion and Clint Black who will entertain under the sail on September 12.

Again, we thank the amazing firefighters for giving us the gift of enjoying this upcoming Labor Day celebration and the renewed opportunity to truly appreciate the beauty and splendor of our one-of-a-kind valley.

Rest up now. It’s about to get busy!

–RES

Come Out, Thank a Firefighter and Celebrate

The valiant efforts of 1,500 firefighters saved our beautiful Valley. Come say thank you Sunday night at River Run

The valiant efforts of 1,500 firefighters saved our beautiful Valley. Come say thank you Sunday night at River Run

With the monstrous Beaver Creek Fire now 70 percent contained and clear, sunny skies prevailing over Sun Valley, it is time to show our appreciation for the firefighters who protected our Valley and the way of life we so value.

Just a week ago, the outcome of this fire was very uncertain as crews worked around-the-clock from Hailey to north of Ketchum (photo Great Basin NationalIncident Management Team #1)

Just a week ago, the outcome of this fire was very uncertain as crews worked around-the-clock to contain it from Hailey to north of Ketchum (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

Sun Valley Resort is throwing a picnic on the River Run lawn this Sunday, August 25, to do just that. Everyone is invited to bring a blanket or chairs down to the mountain beginning at 6 p.m. for an evening of celebration and entertainment featuring the popular bands Old Death Whisper and Up A Creek.

There will be a complete western barbecue with chicken and ribs, beer, refreshments and ice cream available for purchase. You are also welcome to bring a picnic.

The brave men and women who walked into the flames of the Beaver Creek Fire have earned a standing ovation from all of us. Come down Sunday night to honor them, reconnect with friends and neighbors and take in the beauty of everything that was saved. Many firefighters are expected to be in attendance so you can express your appreciation personally.

Please check back to the blog for updates on this event.

–RES

Two of Ketchum Fire Department's finest work Wednesday to ensure the danger has passed

Two of Ketchum Fire Department's finest work Wednedsay to ensure the danger has passed

Fire, Now Ice

After the stress and uncertainty of the past two weeks, it is probably safe to say everyone in the Wood River Valley could use a little entertainment right about now — preferably something cool after all the heat generated by the Beaver Creek Fire.

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free

Sun Valley On Ice is the coolest ticket in town and this week it's free and for a great cause

Sun Valley has just the ticket and invites you to be their guest this Saturday night, August 24, for the spectacle that is Sun Valley On Ice. These ice shows are synonymous with the resort and have showcased the finest figure skaters in the world for more than 70 years. If you haven’t been to an ice show for a while, or even if you have, be sure to come by on Saturday night when general admission is free. Seating in the bleachers will be first come, first served and it promises to be a night to remember!

Best of all, not only will you enjoy a wonderful evening of excitement beneath the wide expanse of Idaho’s summertime, nighttime sky, you will be supporting a great cause. In lieu of charging for entrance Saturday night, Sun Valley is asking that patrons donate to the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. Without the bravery and dedication of more than 1,500 firefighters waging war against the flames up and down valley this month, much of what we collectively cherish could have been lost. This is one way Sun Valley is thanking the firefighters for their efforts.

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

More than 1,500 firefighters protected the Valley from the monster Beaver Creek Fire. We thank them and raise money for them Saturday night. (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, located in Boise, focuses on helping families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and assisting injured firefighters and their families. Head of Marketing Jack Sibbach said Sun Valley “honors and acknowledges past, present and future members of the wildland firefighting community,” and “wishes to bring recognition to wildland firefighters.”

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

We profoundly thank the wildland firefighters for putting themselves at risk day after day to protect this amazing place (photo Great Basin National Incident Management Team #1)

 

Among Sun Valley’s core skaters, keep an eye on Joel Dear and ice dancers Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre who recently electrified the country with their eye popping Aerial Ice act on the television show America’s Got Talent. The threesome advanced to the final rounds with the rest of their ensemble at Radio City Music Hall before being told that they wouldn’t be moving on.

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

The only fire you will see Saturday night is in Ashley Clark's hot act (photo Bob McDowell)

And you will see some fire Saturday night, but it will come from skater Ashley Clark. One of her solo acts this season incorporates her recent training as a fire dancer. It is truly mesmerizing.

Grab a blanket to sit on, come early for a glass of wine or a beer and be sure to bring a jacket for cooler evening temperatures. The suggested donation is $20, but that is by no means a requirement for attendance. The evening’s entertainment begins at dusk (around 9 p.m.) and doors open at 7 p.m.

If you’d like to make a real night of it and celebrate the growing containment of the fire, dinner and show tickets are available for purchase for $99 and include a wonderful buffet at Gretchen’s Restaurant terrace and a great view of all the action on the ice.

Sun Valley On Ice is one of the Resort’s longest-running traditions and a big part of what makes Sun Valley, Sun Valley. Come to the rink Saturday night to honor the firefighters, cheer on the skaters and enjoy what is sure to be a spectacular, and relaxing, late summer’s night. Once again, thank you firefighters.

–RES

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.

There’s No Place Like Home

The view out Greenhorn last Wednesday, preceding Thursday evacuation of the area

The Beaver Creek Fire gears up for its devastating assault on Greenhorn Gulch Wednesday of last week

Dramatic, uncertain, awesome (in the true sense of the word): It has been a week to remember in Sun Valley. As the Beaver Creek wildfire took control of the topography surrounding our beautiful valley, bending residents and visitors to its will, more than 100,000 acres were engulfed in a week’s time. Upwards of 2,000 homes were evacuated and close to 1,800 fire personnel from all over the nation and all over Idaho stepped into the flames and smoke. Fire visible from the State Highway 75 ran up and down mountains while the air traffic overhead, comprised of attack helicopters, small planes and even DC-10s, worked to beat it back.

And while this crisis isn’t over, when I returned to the Wood River Valley and to my home on Monday, after three days away, things were definitely looking up. Through the valiant efforts of firefighters, many residents this week were allowed back into their homes. In Ketchum, though quiet for August, people enjoyed lunch outside beneath increasingly blue skies, shopped great sales and a few friends I know even enjoyed a round of golf Tuesday morning. In true Ketchum spirit, people were out running and biking the local paths.

While the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

Though the crisis is not over, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey are showing signs of normalcy

While it is crucial to emphasize that this fire is only about ten percent contained and the most important thing we can all do is stay out of the way of emergency responders, listen to law enforcement and let everyone do their job, I have to admit, I was thrilled to be home. With my evacuated parents taking up residence with us for a time, Monday night we settled back in, thankful and humbled by the events swirling around us.

Sun Valley is place that breeds fierce loyalty. Very few people simply ‘end up’ here. The vast majority of residents, second homeowners and visitors very deliberately choose Sun Valley for everything that makes it unique. We choose to raise our children amid peace and security. We choose to retire in a place where there is a close-knit community. We choose to vacation amid some of the most spectacular lands in the country offering unbeatable skiing and snowboarding, cross-country, fly-fishing, mountain biking and on and on. We choose Sun Valley.

This isn’t just a place. It is a way of life. It is a valley personified by exactly the type of behavior seen during this fire – that of open invitations to guest rooms, couches, transportation, information. It is a place where neighbors take care of one another; where a familiar face spotted when away from town feels like a member of the family.

Fighting fire -- ski resort style

Fighting fire -- ski resort style. The snow guns on Leigh Lane on Baldy's Seattle Ridge pumped water to keep slopes damp in case embers hit

Sun Valley Resort is also an exceptional neighbor. This week, many evacuees chose to move to safety and comfort at the Resort, taking up residence at the Lodge or Inn. The company worked closely with firefighters and emergency personnel in helping to protect all that is sacred here, including a symbol of what we value the most — Bald Mountain. Snowmaking guns were turned on full force to protect Seattle Ridge and the area below and everyone fought together, and continue to fight together, to make sure Baldy comes through this unscathed.

In addition, the Resort will offer its popular Sun Valley On Ice show general admission tickets free to the public on August 24. There, they will collect donations for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

Show your support for Sun Valley over the Labor Day weekend and enjoy Wagon Days -- one of the most popular events of the year

As it becomes increasingly safe to return to a more normal routine, my suggestion is that everyone eat at our wonderful local restaurants, shop at the Sun Valley Village and Ketchum and Hailey’s one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries, frequent our local markets. Stay for Wagon Days over Labor Day weekend — it’s on – and enjoy the most memorable parade you will ever see as well as many other surrounding events. Supporting local businesses might be the most important thing we do once this blaze is contained.

From the ashes will come some spectacular wildflowers, an embarrassment of morels and, probably, some fantastic new backcountry skiing. After the Castle Rock fire, the ski season on Baldy was especially good. Next summer, Sun Valley will be in bloom and Mother Nature’s unbelievably violent housecleaning will inevitably produce new opportunities in and around the Wood River Valley.

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

Fire teams from Ketchum, Hailey, Wood River and Bellevue all staged outside St. Luke's Wood River Hospital south of Ketchum on Tuesday afternoon while helicopters worked in the distance

Thank you, firefighters doesn’t begin to express it. Thank you emergency services personnel. Thank you neighbors. Please stay tuned to this blog for more information about developments in the Beaver Creek fire, opportunities for the community to come together and opportunities for visitors to enjoy our amazingly special Valley into the fall.

As for me, September is always my favorite month of the year and I am very, very happy to be home.

–RES

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon

The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon

Breaking Bread with Brian Boitano

Brian Boitano has a long history of headlining Sun Valley On Ice - now he returns to share his other passion, cooking

Brian Boitano has a long history of headlining Sun Valley On Ice - now he returns to share his other passion, cooking (photo courtesy Craig Heath)

Olympic figure skating legend Brian Boitano just looks like someone you want to have as a friend; someone with whom you want to share dinner, a cocktail and stories. Now is your chance! Brian is coming to Sun Valley to host a special cooking class and party on September 1 and you are invited.

Cooking you might say? Brian Boitano? Yes! As the 1988 Olympic champion, the 1986 and 1988 World Champion, and the 1985-1988 U.S. National Champion in figure skating, he is one of the most exalted skaters of our time. After turning professional following his 1988 season, Brian continued and continues to skate, entertaining countless fans in shows and television specials each year. He has headlined Sun Valley On Ice many times and is a local favorite. But he also found a second career about which he is equally passionate – cooking.

Boitano creates all of his own recipes and will share some of them with the lucky guests at his August 22 event

Boitano creates all of his own recipes and will offer tips and techniques to prepare them at home with the fortunate guests at his August 22 event

A self taught chef, Brian took his love of food and entertaining and parlayed it into a popular television program on both the Food Network and Cooking Network. In What Would Brian Boitano Make? the eponymous star of the series shares recipes, techniques and tips for entertaining with viewers, all with his signature style. From his television work came a cookbook by the same name, a collection of his best recipes that will help you look like a gold medalist in your own kitchen.

On September 1, 100 lucky people will gather at the spectacular home of Kim Selby in Ketchum to learn from Brian as he gives a cooking lesson and offers tips a la his popular television show.

The Valley Sun caught up with Boitano to discuss the upcoming event.

TVS: You have a long-standing connection to Sun Valley. Are you looking forward to returning next week?
BB: Sun Valley is near and dear to my heart and I always love to come back. Not only do I have wonderful memories of all the shows I’ve performed in, but I have good friends here.

TVS: But this time, you’re trading in your skate blades for knife blades. Tell us what people who attend the function on the 22nd might expect.
BB: Well, you can expect great food and drinks that you will be able to replicate at home. You can also expect to learn these recipes in one of the most beautiful kitchens in the Northwest. Kim’s house is gorgeous and is fully stocked with everything you need to make an unforgettable meal. She even has a pizza oven that we’re going to use.

TVS: Is this event for the seasoned cook or for anyone who is interested?
BB: My philosophy on cooking is that everyone can do it. You just need a plan. My cookbook, from which I will be choosing recipes for that event, lets you make delicious food in very few steps. It’s for everyone from the novice to the experienced chef.

TVS: You created all the recipes in your cookbook yourself, correct?
BB: Yes, they are all mine! Usually I follow something that interests me when beginning a new dish. I may not have used much allspice in cooking and would like to try it, so I think about what allspice would be good with. Rice? For sure! Let’s try rice. Then I lay out how I’m going to make a new dish. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t but if it doesn’t I can dissect what went wrong and learn from it. The dishes in my cookbook have gone through a lot of changes to get to where they are!

During all my travels for skating, I have been able to indulge my interest in food from many cultures and many different flavors. I also give a nod to my Italian heritage. It all comes through in my recipes.

TVS: Any ideas about what you plan to cook and teach the guests to cook?
BB: One of the things I’m making is southwestern sopapillas – a recipe in the cookbook that people just love and I love. Where sopapillas are usually sweet, mine are savory. They are little dough balls that puff up when you fry them. Then I poke a hole in them and stuff them with salsa and bean dip. They are absolutely delicious, easy to make and certain to impress dinner guests! I am also planning on a white wine sangria with fresh mint in it and pizza because when you have a pizza oven in the house, you have to use it!

TVS: Any plans to take to the ice while you are in town?
BB: I actually do plan to skate a little bit in Sun Valley to get in shape for my upcoming season. There are a lot of people at the rink I really appreciate working with and it’s a beautiful place to skate. I have two NBC shows coming up in the fall so I am ready to train for them.

TVS: This dinner benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club. Do you have a special connection to the organization?
BB: Skating in Sun Valley is very special and I always want to support and encourage young people in the sport. When I was an up-and-coming skater I competed in the Club’s annual Summer Championships and I am happy to help this excellent program.

Boitano has a long history in Sun Valley. Here he enjoys time off with fellow skater and choreographer Gia Guddat

Boitano has a long history in Sun Valley. Here he enjoys time off with fellow skater and choreographer Gia Guddat (photo courtesy Craig Heath)

Tickets to this once-in-a-lifetime chance to break bread with Brian Boitano are available at www.sunvalleyfsc.com, by calling 208.622.8020 or at the Club office located behind the skate house. Very limited VIP tickets are available for $200 ($375 per couple) and include a private cocktail hour with Brian Boitano. Tickets to the cooking demonstration, that include signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are available for $100 ($175 per couple). Guests will also receive a signed cookbook. All proceeds benefit the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club, dedicated to skating excellence and making this lifelong sport available to children in the Wood River Valley.

I have my ticket and look forward to this amazing night! See you there.

–RES

PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO RECENT FIRES, THIS EVENT WAS RESCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER 1. TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE!

 

The fundraiser benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and encourages children to pursue this lifelong sport

The fundraiser benefits the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club and encourages children to pursue this lifelong sport

The Trishas: The Dixie Chicks for the New Century

 

The Trishas were born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The Trishas were born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and perform in Sun Valley, Idaho Friday, September 6.

 

If you’re a hard-working musician whose been pounding the tarmac for decades you’d have every right to be a bit miffed with The Trishas, who play the Sun Valley Pavilion on Friday, September 6. The four raven-haired beauties, Jamie Wilson, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Savannah Welch, who comprise the Austin-based band had no intention of becoming a successful all-girl country music band. But one impromptu gig in Colorado changed their fate.

The quartet first shared a stage in January 2009. The plan was just to perform a couple of songs as a tribute to Savannah’s father, singer-songwriter Kevin Welch. Despite each having impressive musical chops - Memphis-reared Mickwee honed her talents in that town before becoming half of the duo Jed & Kelley; Wilson was a member of renowned Austin band The Gougers; and Foster performed on the Texas Opry circuit, spending seven years touring with a Motown revue before forming the duo Liz & Lincoln - a joint musical future wasn’t in the cards. They didn’t even have a name.

That night in  Steamboat Springs, the girls so transfixed the audience with their close, four-part harmony that show offers quickly flooded in. Soon, they were talking about testing the waters with a real band.  The name came about accidentally, it had popped into their head’s backstage at Steamboat Springs because they were covering a Welch-authored  Trisha Yearwood hit.

http://youtu.be/DZp7MWPkYFM

A sneak peek at the treats The Trishas have in store for you when they open for local boys Reckless Kelly on September 6 at the Sun Valley Pavilion. (Video not displaying? Click here.)

It wasn’t long before the four-part harmonies and rootsy, bluesy, gospel- and bluegrass-inflected sound produced from the unique combination of the girls’ voices, Mickwee’s mandolin, Wilson’s guitar, Foster’s harmonica and Welch’s guitar, mandolin and percussion began nabbing the group opening-act gigs with the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Raul Malo, Rodney Crowell, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Todd Snider.

Four years later and today The Trishas are being hailed by SavingCountryMusic.com as one of the 9 Women Who Could Immediately Make Country Better“The Trishas score high on every one of the major music food groups. Class, character, creativity, four-part harmonies, fully-developed songwriting, and maybe most importantly, the fun atmosphere that can develop when you toss four talented ladies into a tight knit group. They are The Dixie Chicks for the new century, and the Pistol Annies for the rest of us.”

Since forming The Trishas, two band members have had another significant life change; both Wilson and Welch have reproduced. The band took the increase in size in its stride however, and the lucky tykes get to tour with The Trishas. “It’s not much different than any other women who’s having a career or working a job,” Welch said on the band’s website thetrishas.com. “The difference is actually that we get to bring them to work with us. We want to help each other be able to play music for a living and still have families. We’ll do what it takes.”

http://youtu.be/AcHcMKA6ccg
Watch the official music video for Drive, The Trishas’ first single. “We’re not as lonely, sad and as bitter as our songs make us seem,” Kelley Mickwee said in an interview with Uncommon Music last year. “We’re actually all very happy and in good relationships. We just like sad songs and drawing from negative experiences, what can we say! Sad songs say so much.” (Video not displaying? Click here.) 

The Trishas, with tots in tow, open for fellow Austin, Texas-based band Reckless Kelly on Friday, September 6 at the Sun Valley Pavilion as part of The Governor’s Cup celebrations. Doors are 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets here.

Jennifer Tuohy

For The Valley Sun’s interview with The Governor’s Cup headliners Reckless Kelly click here.

Art for Every Aesthetic

The Arts & Crafts Festival hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts brought the highest quality arts in every medium to town for the 45th year

The Arts & Crafts Festival hosted by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts brought the highest quality arts in every medium to town for the 45th year

Sun Valley’s reputation as a destination for art collectors and those who simply appreciate objects of beauty is well deserved. With dozens of local galleries exhibiting works produced in every medium from some of the most important artists of our time, this is a sophisticated arts scene. The Sun Valley Gallery Association hosts nine gallery walks each year that are free, open to the public, and extremely popular places not to only enjoy exhibition openings, but to see and be seen. The next walk will be held on Friday, August 30, and is sure to be one of the highlights of the summer social calendar. Grab a group of friends, reserve a table for dinner and plan to enjoy a wonderful evening on the town, all while enjoying world-class culture.

Another marker of area’s commitment to the arts took place over the weekend as the Sun Valley Center for the Arts (SVCA) held its 45th annual Arts & Crafts Festival in Ketchum. From August 9 to 11, nearly 150 painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, metalworkers, photographers, printmakers, glass, fiber and wood artists (among others!) set up their tents and shared their talents with the steady crowd of browsers and buyers.

The annual SVCA Festival is a feast for the senses

The annual SVCA Festival is a feast for the senses

This juried show accepts more than 500 artist applications each year. The Larry Harris List of the Nation’s Best Art Festivals ranks the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival among the top 20 in the Pacific Northwest and California. The quality of the work is evident in even a cursory browse through the field of fine art. Artists from Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and many of the other 50 states deserve their spot at the Festival.

Local artist Alison Higdon shares her talent for encaustic painting with the crowd

Local artist Alison Higdon shares her talent for encaustic painting with the crowd

But like most things in Sun Valley, what is perhaps most appealing about this Festival is its lack of pretense; its welcoming atmosphere. A true community event, the weekend attracts serious collectors and neophytes alike. Children are invited to enjoy the arts at an activity tent and everyone is encouraged to watch local artists at work during daily demonstrations. A wide range of live music, good food and lots of places to sit and chat help keep the event casual and inviting.

Though not a gallery per se, the Sun Valley Resort is also a treasure trove of art. Their specialty? Thousands of archival black and white photos depicting nearly a century of the area’s rich history. Stroll the hallways at the Sun Valley Lodge for a glimpse of the glamorous Union Pacific era when celebrities frolicked in the area’s fresh air and sunshine. Pop by the Sun Valley Inn to peruse their exhibition. The collection extends from the Gun Club to Roundhouse Restaurant; from the Sun Valley Club to Trail Creek Cabin and is definitely worth a lingering look.

Enjoying a live concert outside at River Run is one of the joys of summer

Enjoying a live concert outside at River Run is one of the joys of summer

Next up for the SVCA is a concert by Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band on Wednesday, August 14, at River Run Lodge. Known for his distinctive “Americana” style, Ritter is a successful songwriter, guitarist and author. An evening spent listening to live music beneath the summer shadow of Bald Mountain is an experience that can’t be replicated. Buy dinner from the grill or grab a picnic and find your spot on the lawn. Tickets are now on sale for this event, as well as for what promises to be a truly memorable night at the Sun Valley Pavilion when megastar Clint Black brings his extremely popular brand of country music to the Valley on September 12.

Special room and ticket packages at Sun Valley Resort are available for the Josh Ritter and Clint Black concerts, as well as the Huey Lewis and the News concert that takes the Pavilion by 80s storm on August 21.

Not bad for a little mountain town, eh?

–RES

And another type of artistry is on display this week as three show skaters from Sun Valley On Ice continue their quest for the million dollar prize as they compete Tuesday night on America’s Got Talent. Their act, Aerial Ice, features Joel Dear, Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre with three others and moves to Radio City Music Hall this week. Tune in from 8 – 10 pm on NBC and be sure to vote them on!