The Wood River Valley's storied past comes to life throughout the year, helping both to define and to entertain the community. From mining to skiing and myriad pursuits in between, the valley has always been a place where the past is welcomed as part of the present.
More than that, though, history should be a starting point for discussions about local, regional and even global issues, according to some historians.
Idaho State Historical Society board members held their annual meeting with local historians this year in Sun Valley. State and local historians, as well as community members who help promote the appreciation and preservation of history, gathered May 10 at the Sun Valley Lodge for the Honoring History event.
"We are here tonight to celebrating the excellence of the many individuals and organizations in this valley in the field of history," said Bellevue resident Tom Blanchard, trustee for the Idaho State Historical Society from the 5th Judicial District, which includes Blaine County. "It has long been our vision that cultural and historical groups should serve as platforms for community discussions about state, world and local affairs that have importance to the region, facilitating critical thinking and appreciation of place."
Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, said the society's member organizations work to preserve and promote history, inspiring and educating Idahoans.
Gallimore said community members are a key part of historic preservation and awareness. She added that in the Wood River Valley, the community has shown "great skill in leveraging its history to enhance tourism and economic development and creating a sense of place that is extraordinary."
"Wood River Valley community leaders understand that a sense of place increases community pride, enhances community and enriches the lives of its citizens," she said.
Blanchard said history should hold the same importance as infrastructure in any city.
"We can have the best roads, water systems and public buildings in the world, but without a sense of history we would be just another spot on the road," he said.
He said that's what's lacking is the funds to support history. Stepping in to fill the void, he said, are individuals and organizations, many of whom are volunteers and all of whom see value in history.
Blanchard pushed for more coordination among individuals and groups, with the hope of even better results.
He said that even though there's room for improvement in coordination, one thing has never been lacking in the valley: commitment to quality. Averell Harriman demanded it, as did every management team at the Sun Valley Resort, he said.
"That demand for quality permeated everything the Union Pacific did in the early years in order to attract the clientele they hoped would frequent the resort and use their railroad system to arrive," he said. "And that sense of quality eventually seeped out into the entire Wood River Valley until we became, and remain, a world-class destination resort and community. Quality of life became a byword of our valley."
That defining characteristic is bolstered by several that preceded it, Blanchard said: hard work, optimism, a can-do attitude and self-promotion, or marketing.
"Quality interwoven with history has been good business and good for our community," he said.
Rebecca Meany: email@example.com
Peek into the past
On display at the "Honoring History" event were selections from two large photo collections: one, from the Community Library's regional history department, consists of recently restored vintage photos from Sun Valley's early days taken by Union Pacific photographers. The second was the Hailey Public Library and the city of Hailey Preservation Commission's Mallory Photo Collection. Learn more about the photos, and see them for yourself, by visiting http://thecommunitylibrary.org/regional_history_departments.php and http://mallory.haileypubliclibrary.org/
Save the date
On March 4, 2013, Idaho will celebrate its 150th anniversary of becoming a territory. Idaho's territorial sesquicentennial is being marked with legacy projects, outreach to schools and special exhibits—online and onsite. Much of the celebration will be driven by grassroots efforts. To learn how to participate, as a group or individually, visit http://history.idaho.gov/idaho-150.