Fact or Fancy? Idaho is Nowhere
Idahos Image to Outsiders
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
A recent story in The New York Times alerted me to the funny but
somewhat disturbing inclination of people outside the state of Idaho to wrongly
hypothesize about our locales attributes.
The story in question was about a newly wed couple. She was from the New
York City area, and he a snow-plow drivin, Bellevue livin guy--according to
the Times, a bit of a potato-head. They met at a wedding in Hailey. But the story
implied wonder at how those people could ever have got together. After all Bellevue is the
middle of nowhere.
As I recall, Bellevue is at the southern end of a valley that includes the
resort of Sun Valley--a sophisticated area populated by world travelers, business
magnates, Hollywood moguls and various celebrities, not to mention blue-blooded old-money
and lots of new Californian dot.com money.
Even if Bellevue is several miles south, there is a certain trickle-down
effect. Its not, after all, Wieser or Dietrich or even Yale.
Recently on A&E (a cable TV station), there was a special show about
another resort communityPalm Beach. A woman being interviewed said: "This town
must be something--you [the film crew] wouldnt be filming in Idaho on some
Our locale, apparently, is the epitome of nowhere-ness.
Many people only know Idaho for one of a few reasons: Its where the
Aryan nation skinheads congregate and potatoes grow, and there is a song and a movie
called My Own Private Idaho. The film, however, actually took place in Portland,
Ore., and Italy. Go figure.
The lack of understanding can sometimes seem monumental. Some examples:
We live in the Midwest and its flatland. I was told once that my
childs asthma would be better when we moved to the cornfields of Idaho.
A woman I know was asked if Idaho had indoor plumbing.
A friend said hed stop in on his way to Denver from the East
A colleague receives frequent e-mail from friends asking him "to
have a spud for me!"
When local people mention Idaho to the uninitiated, smirky references to
the television show Northern Exposure are not uncommon.
In fact, the reality of the Wood River Valley and other areas of Idaho,
like the evolving city of Boise, whose nickname is the City of Trees (yes, there are a
number of tall, woody plants in Boise), is that its a happenin place after
In a different story than the one first mentioned, The New York Times
recently called Ketchum an "outdoor jock mecca."
Baldy has repeatedly been rated as one of the top ski mountains in the
country, with the best snowmaking available.
Events that occur around these parts besides world-class skiing, fishing,
whitewater rafting, climbing and golf, are the Sun Valley Film Festival and the Sun Valley
Writers Conference, both well respected events within the industries they represent.
The Idaho Shakespeare Festival, with grand new digs on the Boise River,
produces premium theatrical works. Boises ballet, opera, philharmonic and other
theatrical companies are well regarded, and Sun Valley hosts a Swing n Dixie
Jazz Jamboree that draws fans from all over the world.
Theres a darn good folk festival in Hailey and a documentary film
festival in the spring. Movies are regularly debuted in the Wood River Valley. Boise has a
Celtic music festival and lots of rock n roll concerts featuring such current
acts as Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Arrowsmith, Matchbox 20, Ben Harper and Moby.
There are numerous galleries and one very fine museum (Boise Art Museum,
established 1938). Idaho is home to nationally known artists and writersbest-selling
Ridley Pearson, non-fiction writer John Sack, screenwriter Denne Bart Petitclerc, and the
late Ernest Hemingway.
Doesnt sound exactly like nowhere, does it?
So, in many ways it remains good to be misunderstood if that maintains our
auspicious isolation, and extreme fortune.
So mums the word, while we gloat in our own private Idaho.