Jennifer Alban said people are generally pretty curious about life in Idaho City, the once-bustling hub of Boise County that still attracts its share of gold prospectors and lovers of privacy and a rural life.
People have the idea that I live in a mining shaft, or a cave, or a shack, said Alban, whos lived in Idaho City for six years in a Tuscan-style house atop a hill. The view from her yard, where birders from the Idaho Bird Observatory regularly come to band hummingbirds, sweeps across miles of piney valleys.
Her house is such a birders delight shes gotten visitors from as far away as Texas and Washington, D.C., lured by the possibility of spotting a white-headed woodpecker and other avian attractions.
The public will have the chance to clear away some of the mystery and misperceptions about life in Idaho City on Sept. 22 when organizers of Mountain Kids Day Camp, including Alban, host a self-guided tour of six homes in the area. The tour is a fundraiser for the camp.
On most home tours you find big mansions decorated by designers, said Alban. These are real houses that real people live in. Theyre unique and no designers were involved.
Homes include Ginger Fields artists retreat, a cabin that shows off her creative talents and eye for collecting. Fields made the shimmery stained glass screen surrounding the hot tub on her deck. She painted the row of sunflowers on the houses facade and the trompe loeil rug on the staircase leading down to her stained glass studio. The rangy tub in her upstairs bathroom? Salvaged from an old hotel in Silver City.
The tour will include a house just off Main Street known locally as the curiosity. Rhonda Jameson has lived there with her family for more than a decade. When she moved in, the home contained no fewer than three bars. In keeping with that spirit, its previous owner collected bottles. Broken necks from several of his specimens are now an art display, wired together, catching the sun on the outside of the house. Its rooms, filled with crazy angles, curios, art, musical instruments and a Lilliputian yet fully operational music practice area, have the effect of a psychedelic kaleidoscope. A slate board hanging on the front porch reminds passers-by that this is a private residence. Otherwise, people tend to walk in the front door, mistaking the house for a tourist site, said Jameson.
Tour participants will get more treats: a look inside the historic Odd Fellows Hall and the Catholic church that sit on a hill above town. The Springs, the remodeled hot springs resort scheduled to open this winter, is also part of the tour.
ALL ARE WELCOME, NO QUESTIONS ASKED
Showing off the community is one thing. The tours bigger purpose is raising money for next summers Mountain Kids Day Camp, said Alban. She directs the Isaiah Foundation, the nonprofit organization that supports the camp.
Resident Michelle Alden founded the camp 10 years ago after realizing that organized summer activities for Idaho City kids are few and far between.
The camp, open to kids ages 6 to 11, takes place for one week every June at Camp Ivy Dale near the town. The camp is faith-based. Campers read the Bible and sing religious songs for part of the day, but kids of any, all or no denomination are welcome.
One key thing for area families, many of whom struggle financially, is that the camp is entirely free, no questions asked. Some families have the means to donate and do. Others dont, and thats fine, said Alban.
The Breeding familys three sons have all attended the camp. Lisa Breeding works at Donnas Place, a restaurant and grocery, and does home health care. Clint Breeding does odd jobs, fixing cars or cleaning.
Were a lower-income family and this helps a lot, said Lisa Breeding.
Camp is an extension of the close-knit Idaho City community where parents know teachers by their first names and where a neighbor will call a parent if they see a kid getting into trouble, Breeding said.
FILLING THE COFFERS
Camp activities, all run by volunteers, include drama, beading, archery, braving the waters of an unheated pool, origami and more. The Breeding kids came home with toy cars and birdhouses theyd made. On tap for next year: sewing instruction and a geologist teaching campers about rocks.
This summer, 75 kids came to camp.
We didnt turn anyone away, said Alban, not even campers who showed up unannounced on the first day. Ninety volunteers, including many teenagers who were former campers, acted as mentors throughout the week.
Fundraising is a year-round effort, said Alban. Organizers have to raise about $7,500 to open the doors next year, and they hope to bring in the full amount through the home tour.
You can only have so many spaghetti dinners and ask friends for money so many times, said Alban.
Fields many businesses include running an old-time photo studio, making hats and running a geological exploration company with her husband. She came up with the idea for the home tour after seeing something similar in a small town in Arizona.
I thought if they can do it there, why cant we do it here? said Fields.
Anna Webb: 377-6431