To say that the Greater Boise Centennial celebration of 1963 was an ambitious undertaking is probably an understatement. The schedule of events listed in the souvenir program issued by the Greater Boise Chamber of Commerce confirms that opinion.
The week began on Thursday, June 27, 1963, with "Old Fashioned Bargain Days," sponsored by downtown merchants, most of whom had already pledged cash contributions to the celebration. The Centennial Ball was held Friday night in Hotel Boise's Crystal Ballroom. Saturday morning's main event was the Centennial Parade, followed by an open house at the Basque Center featuring "Basque dancers, Noon Luncheon and Dinner." At 7 p.m., the first day of the National Appaloosa Horse Show took place at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, then located at Fairview Avenue and Orchard Street, its home since 1902. The finals of the Miss Idaho Pageant were held that evening in the Boise Junior College gymnasium.
Sunday was billed as "Religious Heritage Day," with local churches celebrating their own histories, following the centennial theme if they chose. The finals of the Appaloosa horse show judging took place in the afternoon, as did a centennial picnic in Ann Morrison Memorial Park. Julia Davis Park welcomed visitors throughout the week to the Boise Gallery of Art, the State Historical Museum, and an "Indian Village," of which the program gives no details.
On Monday, July 1, 1963, festivities began at noon with a series of events in front of the Statehouse at what was listed as a "mall." These included an "Old Time Rifle Shoot," a preliminary Beard Judging Contest, Old Time Fiddlers, hymns sung by the Golden Years Club, a fashion show, Pattern Dancing, and singing by the audience. (This may have been the first use of the term "mall" in Idaho). That evening the action shifted to Bronco Stadium where a performance by the Elk's Gleemen was followed by the first performance of what was billed as "A Huge Grand Pageant Featuring 750 local residents depicting the 100 years of progress in an entertaining show for the entire family, topped with a Dazzling Fireworks Display!".
"The Idaho Story" was told through a series of 21 episodes acted out by volunteers of all ages. The program explains: "The characters and events of this production are taken from Actual Historical data compiled by the committee. Some modifications have been made in the building of Dramatic Unity. All rights are reserved, and no portion of this production, or its script may be used without the consent of the Producers, John B. Rogers Producing Co., Fostoria, Ohio."
The episodes portrayed were: "The Prologue; The Frontiersman Greets You; The Redman; Westward Ho!; The Ward Massacre; Gold!! Gold!! Gold!!; Lincoln Signs the Idaho Bill; Establishment of Fort Boise and Boise City; The Seventh Day; The Iron Horse; Statehood; Gay Nineties; The Haywood Trial; The Lifeblood of Idaho; World War I Turbulent Times; The Roaring Twenties; Depression Years; A Siege for Freedom; You and the Last 17 Years; The Beginning or the End!!; To the Future." The cast of each episode is listed in the program, and I'm sure many of you reading this column must have been there as children perhaps a hundred or more of you.
This incredibly complicated pageant was repeated six times during the week surely a logistical challenge with the hundreds of people involved, and it must have required at least a few rehearsals.
Elsewhere across the state other towns, counties, and organizations celebrated Idaho's Territorial Centennial in their own way. Many issued commemorative bronze or silver medals and tokens featuring their own special events, including Weiser's Old Time Fiddlers Festival; Parma's Old Fort Boise Days; Ketchum's Wagon Days, and the Coeur D'Alene Mission. Bonners Ferry had a token, and Grangeville came up with a "wooden nickel." Commercial products ranged from a foot-high ceramic Jim Beam whisky decanter to a Scripto lighter, and a .22 caliber pearl handled Colt revolver. A Centennial post card featured portraits of William H. Wallace, Idaho's first governor, and Robert E. Smylie, the incumbent governor. The message, spelled out in gold coins, read "Gold Made Idaho."
Greetings to all of you who took part in that grand Centennial Celebration of 1963.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.