Save the Dates

With tips of daffodils and tulips peeking through the ground with just a hint of hesitation and buds forming in earnest on the trees up and down the valley, everyone’s thoughts are on summer. Summer in Sun Valley is like nowhere else: endless days filled with sunshine and temperatures that begin wonderfully cool for golf or biking and heat up to “time to jump in the pool” digits. Blue skies abound. The pace is as leisurely or as fast-paced as you like and days are filled with adventure and activities ranging from hiking to fly fishing to mountain biking to golf, tennis, horseback riding, backpacking, ice skating … really too many to name.

Summer in Sun Valley is pretty special. Make your plans now so you don't miss a moment.

Summer in Sun Valley is pretty special. Make your plans now so you don't miss a moment.

In addition to this daily menu of fun, Sun Valley offers some pretty amazing programs and opportunities each summer that draw thousands from near and far. Now is the time to secure your tickets and make your reservations. Mark your calendar for some of these favorites and check back to this blog and to for updated listings.

Sun Valley Writer’s Conference
The always-popular Sun Valley Writer’s Conference is back and better than ever. This year, the intellectually charged event will take place in and around the Sun Valley Pavilion from July 19 – 22. Celebrating its 20th year in Sun Valley, this year’s speakers and participants include luminaries such as Dave Barry, Justice Stephen Breyer, Timothy Geithner, Ridley Pearson and Scott Turow among many others. Please click HERE for more information about conference passes and single event tickets (based on availability). There is no better place to listen to some of the great thinkers and writers of our day tackle the issues of our day than at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference.

The Tapas and Tasting event is one of many wonderful ways to enjoy fine wine and great company during the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Wine Auction weekend

The Tapas and Tasting event is one of many wonderful ways to enjoy fine wine and great company during the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Wine Auction weekend

Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction
This year, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts celebrates its 33rd Sun Valley Wine Auction, one of the premier charity wine auctions in the nation. Tickets are now on sale for this legendary event that offers something for everyone (as long as you are over 21!). Extraordinary wine experiences await over the course of three days, from Vintner dinners hosted in exquisite private homes, to the popular Grand Tasting and Tapas party to the Wine Auction Gala. The Gala includes 40 live auction lots and 70 silent lots including many once-in-a-lifetime experiences and wines. Proceeds from all Wine Auction events support The Sun Valley Center for the Arts. The Center provides educational opportunities in the arts, with fine art and music programming, lectures series and arts education in the Blaine County School District. Cheers!

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts Concert Series also promises to create summer memories to last a lifetime. This year’s lineup, just announced, includes: the Soulshine Tour featuring Michael Franti & Spearhead, SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall on July 2; Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band on July 27; Chris Isaak on August 6; and The Head & The Heart on August 29.

Michael Franti & Spearhead, will launch the first-ever music & yoga tour, Soulshine, that will bridge daytime and nighttime experiences including music, yoga, sustainable lifestyle and DJs guaranteeing a full-blown dance party. SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall will be joining the North American Tour along with special guest yoga teachers. The afternoon will begin with a mass yoga at Trail Creek Lodge and acoustic music jam with Michael Franti & Friends, led by some of today’s most inspiring teachers from across North America, including Ryan Leier. The yoga session is designed for people of all experience levels, ages, shapes and sizes and will feature artists participating side-by-side with fans. The evening concert will feature all four bands for over four hours of music! The evening will kick off at 6 p.m. at the beautiful River Run Lodge. Music in the mountains is unbeatable!

I dare you not to dance when Michael Franti & Spearhead rock River Run

I dare you not to dance when Michael Franti & Spearhead rock River Run

Josh Ritter is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and author who performs and records with The Royal City Band. He will perform his distinctive Americana style and narrative lyrics, also at River Run Lodge where there will be food and beverages for sale or you are invited to bring a picnic. Be sure to make a night of it!

On August 6, the legendary Chris Isaak takes to the River Run stage treating the audience to his deeply personal style, influenced by luminaries like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Finally, on August 29, The Head & The Heart conclude the concerts series on a high note bringing to River Run their indie folk-rock sound straight from Seattle. They scored two No. 1 singles with their song “Lost in My Mind” and they’ve opened for Vampire Weekend, The Decemberists and others.

Tickets for the concert series go on sale to the public on May 19.

The Fab Four and the Doobie Brothers will perform this summer beneath the Sun Valley Pavilion's amazing sail

The Fab Four and the Doobie Brothers will perform this summer beneath the Sun Valley Pavilion's amazing sail, also home to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony

Fab Four Concert
A fun-filled and energetic blast from the past will grace the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion on July 5 at 8 p.m. when the Sun Valley Opera presents The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute. This is the ultimate Beatles tribute band known for its uncanny, note-for-note live renditions of Beatles’ hits. Check out for a preview of what is sure to be an amazing night. Tickets are now on sale and the Sun Valley Opera is also selling Diva Party Tickets that include a cocktail party in a private home and premier seating.

Picture yourself here for one of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's amazing concerts

Picture yourself here for one of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony's amazing concerts

Sun Valley Summer Symphony
Picture this. You carefully unpack a gourmet picnic full of treats on the vast lawn outside the Sun Valley Pavilion amphitheater. Wine is poured, the blanket is spread as you settle in for an evening of world-class classical musical played live by some of the country’s best musicians. The sun begins to slowly set over Dollar and Bald Mountains as the strains of the symphony waft through the air. And what do you pay for this one-of-a-kind experience? Absolutely nothing. From July 28 – August 19 join the thousands of enthusiasts who make an evening at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony the centerpiece of their summer schedules. At the age of 30, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony attracts the most sought-after soloists of our time. With free year-round music education programs complimenting free-admission concerts, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony has claimed a place of world-class status in the North American classical music scene. This year, the In Focus Series takes place on July 28, 29,31 and August 1. The 30th Anniversary Gala, featuring the incomparable Renee Fleming, will be held on August 3 and the Pavilion Series takes place from August 4 – 19. Be a part of it – every concert is a reason to celebrate!

Doobie Brothers in Concert
Yes, you read right … those Doobie Brothers, the one and only, are coming to Sun Valley on August 20. Their concert set in the gorgeous Pavilion is sure to be one to remember. Four-time Grammy winners, the Doobie Brothers provided the soundtrack to the lives of more than one generation of Americans. They continue to write and record new material, tour the world, and delight fans everywhere they go. Presented by the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial, net proceeds from this event benefit Leukemia and Cancer Research. Every August for the past 37 years, the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in Sun Valley has gathered celebrities, sponsors, participants, members of Congress and supporters with one common goal: the cure for cancer and leukemia. Tickets to this amazing concert go on sale May 15 and are sure to sell out so don’t delay!

There is no better way to spend a summer's Saturday night than watching the stars under the stars at Sun Valley On Ice

There is no better way to spend a summer's Saturday night than watching the stars under the stars at Sun Valley On Ice

Sun Valley On Ice
There is nothing more beautiful than being outside on a star-filled Sun Valley summer’s night and no better place to be outside on a Saturday evening that at Sun Valley On Ice. These storied ice shows have graced Sun Valley’s iconic outdoor rink for decades, drawing the very best professional and up-and-coming figure skating talent summer after summer. This year, Sun Valley welcomes 2014 Olympic Gold Medal Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White (August 23) straight off their spectacular win in Sochi. Other headliners include the amazing Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek (August 30), beautiful Olympic Bronze Medalist Gracie Gold (July 4) and US National Champion and Olympian Ashley Wagner (August 9) – truly the biggest names on ice. Sun Valley On Ice debuts July 4 and runs Saturday nights through Labor Day. Core skaters including Craig Heath, Ashley Clark, Darlin Baker, Jozef Sabovcik, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre, Andrei Khvalko & Elena Leonova, Natalia Zaitseva, Ryan Bradley, Erin Reed and Jason Graetz will also delight and entertain. No visit to Sun Valley is complete without taking in Sun Valley On Ice.

Ride Sun Valley brings some amazing mountain bike athletes and action to Bald Mountain and beyond

Ride Sun Valley brings some amazing mountain bike athletes and action to Bald Mountain and beyond

Ride Sun Valley
Sun Valley is mountain bike Mecca and at no time is this evident than when Ride Sun Valley comes to town. From June 27 to 29, all things two-wheeled take center stage during this bike festival to end all bike festivals. The 4th annual event showcases the area’s 400-plus miles of continuous singletrack in an event centered around some of the best race courses in the U.S. Sun Valley is a bike rider’s paradise with over 32 miles of multi-use paved bike paths, two bike parks, and miles of scenic road riding. There are events for the recreational rider to the professional and lots of opportunities to spectate, cheer and enjoy mountain bike culture.

Wagon Days
Labor Day is officially the end to summer and in Sun Valley, the season ends with one of the biggest celebrations of the year: Wagon Days. From August 27 – September 1, the Wood River Valley honors its heritage with lots of family-friendly events culminating in the Big Hitch Parade. This non-motorized parade is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest and features museum quality wagons, buggies, and stagecoaches. The Grand Finale to the parade is Ketchum’s own Big Hitch, the Lewis Ore Wagons. These large freight wagons are the best preserved, most original, functioning wagons of their kind in existence. Watch them wend down Sun Valley Road pulled by an authentic 20-mule jerk line. There are also arts and crafts fairs, pancake breakfasts, an antique car show and auction, live music and much more. It is a can’t-miss weekend in Sun Valley.

The old ore wagons in the Labor Days Wagon Days Parade are a sight to behold

The old ore wagons in the Labor Days Wagon Days Parade are a sight to behold

That doesn’t even begin to cover summer’s fabulous meals, bi-weekly farmer’s markets, Gallery Walks, summer camps for kids, free community concerts like Ketch’em Alive and Town Square Tunes, the Ketchum Arts Festival and the juried Sun Valley Arts & Crafts Festival, July Fourth fun, whitewater adventures … You could spend every summer of your life here and never get bored. In fact, many do.

Don’t miss a minute of this magical season in Sun Valley. By July 2, daily non-stop flights to Sun Valley will be offered from San Francisco (United Airlines), Seattle (Alaska Airlines), Los Angeles (Alaska Airlines) and Salt Lake City (Delta Airlines) with new service from Denver (United Express). Also, be sure to look for great lodging deals on for many of these summer events.

See you this summer in Sun Valley!


Wagon Days. August 28 – September 1, 2014

One of the most popular events every year! Wagon days in Ketchum, brings the history of this region back to life. For details please visit



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…”


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.


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

A Wagon Days Farewell


A 20-draft-mule jerkline powers this Big Hitch, a collection of historic ore mining wagons. This unique sight is the traditional finale of the Wagon Days parade.

One of the common sayings around town is that you come to Sun Valley for the winters, but you stay for the summers. As Averell Harriman discovered after he opened the doors to his extravagant palace in the snow, the Wood River Valley is an ideal summer playground. Harriman quickly decided to keep those doors open and take advantage of the spectacular Sun Valley summers. Today, 76 years later, we are still enjoying the whirlwind two months between July 4th and Labor Day, when summer wraps its arms around the communities of the Wood River Valley. It may be brief, but it is a whole lot of fun; summer in Sun Valley is something not to be missed.

This Labor Day weekend marked the official end to the summer of 2012, and for over half a century the annual Wagon Days festivities have been there to send it off in style. Recognized as the largest non-motorized parade in the Pacific Northwest, the Wagon Days parade is the highlight of the weekend, featuring dozens of “museum-quality buggies, carriages, tacks, carts, buckboards and wagons of every variety in existence today.”

This year The Sun Family was offered the chance of riding in one of the antique wagons. Having been a spectator for seven of the last nine years, being able to participate in this historic parade was too good an opportunity to miss (even if 2 hours in a horse-drawn buggy had the potential to make Baby Sun a squirmy mess).

Fueling up with Mrs Fisher Cat at Papoose Club's annual Pancake breakfast

To get prepped for our Wagon Days opus, we chowed down with our parade companion, Mrs. Fisher Cat (in town visiting The Toy Store), at Papoose Club’s annual pancake breakfast (another wonderful tradition, read about it here.). Local historian Ivan Swaner was more than happy to keep Kitty company and fill her in on the story of Wagon Days.

Little Sun and Mrs Fisher Cat of the Calico Critter Family

Next we headed to the Sun Valley Horseman Center to meet our wagon and gaze in awe at the assembled parade entrants. From Ralphie the Camel to the beautiful Eh Capa bareback riders, there was a lot to take in. Little Sun and Baby Sun were thrilled to be able to get up close and personal with the wide-array of entrants, it was better than a trip to the zoo!

Little Sun and Baby Sun survey the Wagon Days Parade participants from inside a Black Surrey pulled by spotted draft horses

Next it was time to saddle up and hop on our ride for the afternoon, two beautiful spotted draft horses pulling a Black Surrey (with a fringe on top!). While there were a few white knuckle moments as horses crossed paths and wagons rolled, overall riding in the parade was one of the best experiences I’ve had during my time living in Idaho. Waving at the crowds and seeing the smiling, happy people waving back at us we felt – for a few brief moments – like Ketchum Royalty. Baby Sun was in her element (there is a stage somewhere in her future…), waving energetically the entire time (until she fell asleep mid-wave somewhere along Main Street).

The Sun family hitched a ride in Mrs. Fisher Cat's rig, proudly sponsored by Carol Knight of The Toy Store

We owe the wonderful Carol Knight a big dose of gratitude for letting us ride along with Mrs. Fisher Cat in The Toy Store sponsored Black Surrey. It was lovely to be associated with a fixture of the Ketchum shopping scene for over 30 years, all along the route pockets of Ketchum “old-timers” cheered with extra enthusiasm when they saw Carol’s distinctive logo on the side of the wagon.

The view from the Wagon: Sun Valley Road as seen from the Wagon Days Parade

Viewing Wagon Days from inside the parade gave me a lovely perspective on my hometown for close to a decade. It was especially poignant as next month The Sun Family is moving on. After a wonderful nine years living and working in the Wood River Valley we are heading East to join my family in Charleston, South Carolina. We will dearly miss this valley. It is where Brian and I began our lives together, where we welcomed our children, Owen and Rose, and where we have made many dear friends.

In particular I will miss Sun Valley Resort. It is all too easy for locals to take for granted the special place they have on their doorsteps. I for one, only really understood the value of what Averell Harriman brought to this remote corner of Idaho when I started digging into the history of the resort, which is a rich tapestry of fascinating stories and entertaining insights into how these towns became what they are today. I challenge all locals and visitors to take a few minutes of their time to walk through the grand doors of the Sun Valley Lodge into the lobby, pause for a moment and just look around. Eighty years ago, the spot where you are standing was just a barren field of sagebrush, surrounded by nothing but a struggling mining town and untamed mountains. Today a grand resort stands there, an integral part of the thriving, complicated and extraordinary community that surrounds it. Averell would be proud.

For me, riding in the Wagon Days parade was the perfect way to say goodbye to Ketchum.


Happy Trails…

Jennifer Tuohy (aka Mrs. Sun)

p.s. While the end of the road nears for The Sun Family, The Valley Sun blog will continue. Watch this space!

Wagon Days

Wagon Days

Labor Day Weekend

Saturday, Sept 1 – Monday, Sept 3, 2012

Wagon Days features events including a rodeo, car collector’s auction, antique show, community barbeque, a western shootout, live music, and the Pacific Northwest’s longest non-motorized parade.


The Big Hitch Parade has grown into the largest non-motorized parade in the West, displaying more than a hundred museum-quality buggies, carriages, tacks, carts, buckboards, and wagons of every variety in existence today. The Wagon Days Big Hitch is powered by an authentic sixteen-draft mule jerkline. Adding spice to the parade is a lively assortment of authentically costumed individuals, numerous breeds of horses, including Arabs, Morgans, and Pasos, as well as, professional and scholastic marching bands from around the state and the intermountain west.

Contact City of Ketchum for more information:  208-726-7803