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 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
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 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
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
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.
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 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.
Two of Ketchum Fire Department's finest work Wednedsay to ensure the danger has passed
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 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)
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)
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)
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.
Let us entertain you. The cast of Sun Valley On Ice performs beneath the stars earlier this summer.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
The Sun Valley Lodge was calm and surrounded by pretty clear skies Tuesday afternoon
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 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 (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.
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 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.
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.
For The Valley Sun’s interview with The Governor’s Cup headliners Reckless Kelly click here.
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
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
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
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.
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!
Minnesota Twins slugger and Baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew founded the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament to raise funds for research into the disease that killed his teammate. The event returns to Sun Valley Resort this month for the 37th consecutive year.
Statistically, discovering someone you love has cancer is an experience almost everyone will go through. I was starting week two of a new job as arts editor of the Idaho Mountain Express when I got the news. My father, who was more than 5,000 miles away in my home country of England, had acute myeloid leukemia. For Harmon Killebrew, one of the most prolific power hitters in major league baseball history, discovering that his Minnesota Twins teammate had leukemia ignited a philanthropic urge in the man who hit 573 home-runs in his career.
During that career, baseball journalists lamented Killebrew’s understated personality. “Killebrew is so quiet that sportswriters have given up trying to jazz up his image,” said Time magazine in 1964. “He didn’t go out, he didn’t go ballistic, he didn’t go anything but bald,” wrote Steve Rushin in thisSports Illustrated article following the Hall of Famer’s death in 2011. But this baseball-star-turned-Boise-insurance-salesman had a more permanent legacy ahead of him: funding research into a cure for cancer.
While my father won his battle with the disease, Danny Thompson lost his, passing away in 1976 at the age of 29. The tragedy of such a young life and great talent being cut so short inspired Killebrew and his friend Idaho congressman Ralph Harding to start an annual event to raise money for research into the disease. Debuting in the summer of 1977 as a celebrity clambake, the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament has generated over $12 million for the battle against leukemia.
A Payette boy, Killebrew chose to host the event at Sun Valley Resort, on whose magnificent courses the four-person two-best ball tournament has been played ever since. Drawing stars from the world of baseball and Hollywood, such as Joe Washington, Jack Morris, Don Felder and Kevin Sorbo, the tournament’s high profile has helped generate substantial donations to the University of Minnesota Cancer Research Center in Minneapolis and St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise. “Due to the participation and support of nationally known celebrities and sponsors, the tournament has not only raised in excess of $11 million that has gone directly to leukemia and cancer research, but over the years these funds have been used in various matching grant programs leveraged to the million dollar level annually,” Tournament Director Georgie Fenton said in an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express in 2011.
Killebrew lost his own battle with cancer in 2011, and last year the tournament was renamed in its founder’s honor. The first Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament raised $700,000, bringing the grand total collected over 36 years to $12.5 million. Not bad for a round of golf in an idyllic setting.
Huey Lewis and the News return to Sun Valley to entertain at the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament on Wednesday, August 21.
This year’s tournament runs from Wednesday, August 21 through Saturday, August 24. Registration for the 2013 tournament is now closed, but tickets are still available for the benefit concert on August 21 at 8 p.m. featuring Huey Lewis and The News. Purchase tickets from $54 to $255 here, or opt for a $159 hotel package of one night’s lodging and two show tickets by calling 800-786-8259 or clicking here.
Idaho's Famous Potatoes took Figure Skating Showcase Nationals by storm
The headline could read: Famous Idaho Skating Potatoes Mash Competition at Nationals. Or perhaps: Skating Idaho Potatoes Too Hot to Handle. But no matter how you say it, ten figure skaters from the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club took the highest honor given in the Production Ensembles category at National Showcase – a contest in theatrical skating. Sun Valley’s young competitors, ranging in age from 10 to 16, beat eight other clubs that had qualified to travel to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from all over the country for the event that lasted from August 1 to August 3.
When the skaters first took to the ice, the large audience was, well, baffled. The girls, wrapped in huge “aluminum foil” suits found their mark, and to the music from 2001, A Space Odyssey, emerged from the silver ovals into full Idaho Famous Potatoes glory. What followed was six minutes of synchronized jumps, hip hop dance moves and high energy skating set to songs including My Own Private Idaho, Couch Potato, Hot Potato; even Madonna’s Like a Prayer (not potato-themed, but very funny). Wearing potato ‘sacks’ replete with eyes and roots (sewn with love by skating mom Lucy Bourret), the skater taters soon had the audience on its feet, cheering and howling with laughter.
Sun Valley Figure Skating Club members Alexandra Harten, Joyce Chan and Blake Letourneau are national champions
“For better or worse, Idaho is associated with our potatoes,” laughed choreographer Gia Guddat who created the award-winning program with input from Sun Valley’s very own favorite show skater Craig Heath. “We decided to embrace the potato theme in a funny, kind of twisted way. The girls loved it. I loved it. The audience loved and obviously the judges loved it!”
In a competition where show tunes reigned and many programs were beautifully executed but tended toward the traditional, Idaho’s Famous Potatoes mash-up couldn’t have been more unexpected.
World-famous skater “Mr. Debonair” Richard Dwyer, who starred in thousands of shows including Ice Follies and Ice Capades during his long and storied career and who started National Showcase, said the judges were shaking with laughter during the number. He came into the stands wanting to know who choreographed the piece. When he was told Gia Guddat, his response was a simple, “of course!” Later, he told Gia he wanted to visit Sun Valley to see what was inspiring that level of creativity on the ice.
Joyce Chan practices her award winning performance to Skyfall
The winning group was comprised of: Antonia Avery, Isabella Bourret, Joyce Chan, Sage Curtis, Alexandra Harten, Blake Letourneau, Lane Letourneau, Katie Peters, Alex Stuessi and Emma Stuessi. Coaches Holly Wheeler and Guddat traveled with the group providing not only coaching, but all costuming, hair, makeup and moral support. Many parents also traveled to Cape Cod to cheer on the girls.
The rest of the weekend offered individual and duet competitions at which Sun Valley skaters shone. Blake Letourneau, 12, dominated at the Pre-Juvenile level, becoming the Light Entertainment National Champion with a routine that featured a mannequin male partner with whom she wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye. At the Intermediate Level, 16-year-old Joyce Chan won the national title in Dramatic Entertainment with her stunning interpretation of Adele’s Skyfall. Alexandra Harten, also 16, won the Novice Light Entertainment division with a self-narrated comical piece about choosing music to skate to.
Alexandra Harten and Joyce Chan made the podium -- placing them ahead of more than 100 skaters and declaring them the best of the best
All three skaters were then invited to be judged one final time against the other winners. Blake moved to the Junior Parade of Champions and Joyce and Alex the Senior Parade of Champions according to their levels. Here, Blake ranked fifth overall in the competition against 236 other skaters. In the Senior Parade, both Alexandra and Joyce made the podium with Alexandra taking fourth and Joyce taking second, placing them in the top four skaters from 125 competitors at Nationals – the best of the best. All three girls are coached by Wheeler and Guddat and attend the Community School in Sun Valley. Guddat choreographed all of the winning individual programs.
The other athletes from Sun Valley also skated strong among tough competition. Skaters who advanced to the finals were: Lane Letourneau (Light Entertainment and Duet), Katie Peters (Light Entertainment), Emma Stuessi (Duet) and Alex Stuessi Duet). Alex Stuessi also won the bronze overall in Pre-Juvenile Dramatic Entertainment.
“The girls represented Sun Valley, our club and Idaho beautifully,” said Wheeler. “We couldn’t be more proud of all of them.”
Cody and Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly, Idaho’s homegrown country music stars, play with their musical father and brothers on The Tonight show in 1993. The boys started their careers playing with the family band. Reckless Kelly come home to Sun Valley for one night only at the Sun Valley Pavilion, Friday, September 6. (Rewind the video to watch the whole interview). Video not displaying? Click here.
Cody Braun’s lonely harmonica introduces the strains of the final track on Reckless Kelly’s newest album, Long Night Moon. “There’s a river tumbling down the mountainside,” sings Willy Braun, the band’s lead singer/songwriter. “I can feel the north wind blow, through the trees and over to the other side, carrying me down to the valley below, when I’m on the road, bound for home, back to what I know, back to Idaho.”
Described by Willy as an “accidental traveling album,” Long Night Moon leads the listener through the band’s 17-year journey as a successful country rock band. That journey started in the mountains of Idaho under the “snow-capped peaks where I was born,” and, if the lyrics of the new album are anything to go by, is one that will end in the mountains they call home.
“About halfway through writing this record, I noticed that almost all of the songs I was writing, whether they were songs about the road, life, or love, had something to do with traveling,” said Willy. “It started as an accident and I decided to just go with it. Before we knew it, there was a definite theme.”
Despite living full-time in Austin, Texas, Willy wrote a large part of the album on his property in Mackay, just north of Sun Valley. Consequently Idaho permeates the lyrics, sometimes to the detriment of their adopted city. “Sleepless nights where the stars above are drowned out by the city lights,” Willy sings in the album’s title track (catch a preview here.). “And I wonder why I keep torturing my soul beneath this urban sky. But in my mind I’ll be home soon, surrounded by the winter, beneath the long night moon.”
Reckless Kelly’s music has always stood out for its honesty and real connection to the lives of its artists. Willy writes what he knows, he writes from his experiences. These are not songs by committee, intricately designed to please an increasingly fickle mass-audience, this is Red Dirt country, distinctly different from the polished, commercialized sounds coming out of Nashville today. While this may explain why the band hasn’t hit it truly big – yet; it also explains why Reckless Kelly fans are so passionate about the music – it’s authentic.
Reckless Kelly play in Sun Valley next month. Cody Braun, far left, and brother Willy Braun, front, were born in the Moritz hospital, a few feet away from the Sun Valley Pavilion where they'll be performing.
In anticipation of Reckless Kelly’s gig at the Sun Valley Pavilion on September 6, I got a chance to chat with big brother and vocals/fiddle/mandolin/harmonica man, Cody Braun, about the new record, set for release September 3. The band’s 10th studio album, Long Night Moon was recorded at Cedar Creek Studios in Austin. An old farmhouse situated on 10 acres smack in the middle of South Austin, Cedar Creek provided the perfect setting for these country-boys turned city-dwellers to reflect on life, love, the open road and Facebook.
So there’s a song called Idaho on the album, there’s no hidden meaning in that one. It sounds like you are little homesick. Is there anything to that or does it just make for good lyrics? “No, I think definitely we miss it – we talk about it all the time. Even though we’ve been in Texas for 17 years now we’ve always called Idaho home. We visit a lot. All of my brothers have places up there now, I’m the last one to break, but I figure if they all have places why do I need one?”
As a whole, the album has a more mellow country feel than some of your previous efforts, the traveling theme Willy talks about particularly lends to that atmosphere. “This record really is a concept record, in that sense it’s about leaving home and getting out there a bit and then getting back home. It’s about the journey and everything in between. We spend so much time on the road – that’s our life – so that tends to take center stage in a lot of our music. It’s Willy writing about what he know and what’s going on in our lives at the time.”
Willy and Cody Braun, were both born in Sun Valley, along with their younger brothers Gary and Mickey, who have achieved considerable success with their own alt-county band Mickey and the Motorcars. The family grew up between Challis and Stanley in Custer County, spending much of their youth playing gigs with dad Muzzie Braun of Braun Brothers Fame, out at Sun Valley’s Trail Creek Cabin.
As soon as they were old enough, the two eldest brothers, Cody and Willy, took off to Oregon to start a band. After nine months in Bend they shifted paths, arriving in Austin in 1996 as a trio named Reckless Kelly. “We stole the name from Ned Kelly, an Australian bank robber,” Cody said. “‘They called him Reckless Kelly.’ We were in Oregon trying to figure out a name for the band and we were going to use that one for a couple shows and then find a really cool one. But it stuck.” Now known as an Oregon band they took the burgeoning Austin music scene by storm and today are considered a ‘true local success story’ in the city. But indisputably it’s Sun Valley that lays claim to the boys, after all they were born a few hundred feet away from where they will play next month, in the old Moritz Hospital, now staff housing for Sun Valley Resort.
Are you excited to be playing in the Sun Valley Pavilion? “It’ll be the first time I’ve been to the Pavilion. I’ve seen it from the road, the first time I saw it I thought ‘Wow, what a neat venue.’ We’re really excited, it’s always fun to come home and play anywhere, but to get to play such a beautiful venue is going to be really fun. We’ve got a cool show worked up for this summer, with nine records to choose from we’ve got a ton of material.”
No question it will be a great show, Reckless Kelly’s reputation as the Real McCoy when it comes to performing on stage is well-earned and with this gig coming just 3 days after the release of the new album, the boys will be excited to show off the new tunes to a real hometown audience. “We’re really exited about the new album, it was a really fun record to make, a lot of fun songs on it. It’s a little bit more mellow than some of the other records we’ve done in the past, but it’s got a lot of really cool vibes. I get to play some different stuff on it, including a tenor guitar – that was a lot of fun.”
Reckless Kelly has always been known for the honesty of its music, you clearly pour a lot of meaning and connection to your lives into your work. But with 2008′s Bulletproof, in particular American Blood, you dived head-first into the whole political/country music mele. It was a bit of a shock to some of your fans. How’d that go down? “Yeah – we got a little bit of backlash from American Blood. But we got a lot more positive than negative. Pennsylvania Avenue [a get-the-vote-out single released in September 2012] was a real-middle of the road kind of thing, it wasn’t one side or the other. But we’ve never really been afraid to go out there and talk about it. I’m personally not super political, none of the guys are, but Willy gets to a point sometimes when he’s sick and tried of writing about love gone wrong and wants to write about what’s happening around us. With the war overseas going on for 15 or so years now it’s hard not to be influenced by that.”
Reckless Kelly’s 2012 Pennsylvania Avenue Music Video. (Video not displaying? Click here.)
2011 saw Reckless Kelly’s first Grammy nomination, for Album Art. That must’ve been really exciting for you guys. “Yeah, that was awesome, and this record also has some really exciting art work. We got a bunch of surprises in store. A lot of stuff that ties the songs together with the art work. It’ll be fun to see people’s reactions to that.”
Can you give us some insight into what’s in store? “Well, certain parts of the record artwork will be glow in the dark, you’ll get a little LED black light that comes with the packaging so you can see all of the different stuff that’s hidden in glow-in-the-dark ink. There are also some hidden messages throughout the packaging. We’ll be giving fans clues as to how to find those on our website.”
Does this inventiveness with the CD packaging come from an impetus to get people to buy the physical media rather than download the music? Reckless Kelly has been through the heart of the digital music revolution, is this part of how you’re navigating that monumental shift? “Yeah, we’ve definitely embraced the digital thing, we’ve noticed that the digital sales have been up considerably. Every time we put out a record they go up 20 to 30%. Last year it was closer to 50%, so it’s definitely the new way people are getting music; you have to embrace it. But at the same time we’ve always really enjoyed making records that are a whole piece of art, art work included. It’s fun putting a whole record together and having it be interactive. We’re definitely kinda going crazy with this one, it’s going be really cool and I think people are going to like it.”
Another giant shift during your tenure in the ‘biz’ has been the advent of social media. As a brand, Reckless Kelly seems to have fully embraced social media, but as a songwriter it sounds like maybe Willy is not so keen. One track on Long Night Mooon is called Be My Friend (In Real Life), and takes a direct hit at the current Facebook and smartphone obsession. Do you all have iPhones? Is Willy always telling you to put them down? “We don’t leave home without them, we’re just as stuck as everybody else! That’s definitely my favorite song on the record, I think it’s a fun message, more of a reminder to people to just put it down. If you’re having dinner with your friends just have a conversation instead of checking whatever it is every 5 minutes. Again, it’s just what’s going on around us right now, it’s a fun tongue-in-cheek little song.”
Are you personally on social media? Do you do the whole Twitter and Facebook thing? “I do Facebook and Instagram, those are my two main deals. I have a Twitter account but I can never remember the password, and then when I do get on it’s like, I just had a cheeseburger, big deal. I can’t imagine anybody wanting to follow me through my daily routine.”
You’d be surprised… It’s amazing what people will gobble up. But social media has had a positive impact for the band? “Absolutely. It’s been wonderful. It’s a full-time job just updating and keeping up with everything. But we started our own label a couple years ago and as far as promoting the band you can do so much on your own now. You can get the word out that you have a new album or tour without spending any money. That was impossible years ago, we used to collect addresses from people and mail postcards. It’s a bummer that Facebook changed the way they’re doing stuff though, now they charge to reach all your fans so it’s not as effective as it used to be for us. We’ve got 160,000 followers, so for us to pay for an entire blast would be $10,000 or something stupid, it’s really crazy.”
The 2011 album Good Luck & True Love was the first release on your new label, No Big Deal Records, and you’re now self-managed. What was the impetus for such a big change? “This last record is our 10th and we just got to a point where we were at the end of a record deal. Instead of re-signing we sat down and talked about starting our own label; what it would entail, how much extra work it would be – it’s been quite a lot. The last record was a real learning curve, this one was easier on a lot of different fronts. It’s great, we’ve loved every second of it. We’ve learned a lot and we have total control, we don’t have to run anything by anybody or talk anybody into what we want to do. If you were to try and talk a label into the packaging we want to do on this record it would have been like pulling teeth. On the cover it says Reckless Kelly, but it doesn’t have the title of the record until you shine the light on it. No way would a record company have let us do that. And then when you have management that’s three other people you have to email and include and get their opinion. At the end of the day we’re going to do what we want to do anyway.”
It sounds like the move was less about reinvention and more about sticking to your roots. But there’s been a huge shift in the country genre since you first broke onto the scene, and mainstream country music is enjoying an unprecedented heyday. Where do you see Reckless Kelly fitting into today’s music scene? “I think we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, keep trying to build our fan base, doing the shows, touring the country, making records that we’re happy with, that we’re proud of and that hopefully people like. I don’t really see us trying to fit in with the Jason Aldeans and the Taylor Swifts at this point, we’re still quite a ways off from what they’re doing. We’ve done quite a few shows with country artists and the crowd just kind of looks at us and says ‘What’s going on? This ‘aint country music?!’ The country fans tend to not get it most of the time. But there are a lot of people out there that really like this music and the Americana genre. Another great thing about social media is that people looking for our style of music can find it a lot easier; find it, check it out and download it.”
Clearly, Reckless Kelly are more than comfortable in their own skin, happy being real artists rather than commercially manufactured superstars. But in today’s music industry where the fans quickly ferret out any whiff of inauthenticity and have a real voice in the conversation, it’s no stretch to predict that maybe, just maybe, there’s superstardom in their future. “We just carry on and enjoy what we’re doing, we’re really luck to get to play exactly what we want to play and set our own schedule. There’s not a lot of people that get to do what they love to do and do it totally on their own terms. If we can just keep building up a fan base and making a living doing what we’re doing then we’re going to be pretty happy.”
Details: Reckless Kelly take to the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion on Friday, September 6. Doors open at 6.30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. The band will be supported by The Trishas. Buy tickets here, priced $35 to $55.