Boise celebrates 150th birthday with a bash

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJuly 8, 2013 

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Thousands of Boise natives and transplants mingled Sunday in Julia Davis Park as part of community festivities honoring the 150th anniversary of the city's founding.

Many sat on the grass under the park's large shade trees as temperatures soared into the 90s. The city gave out free sesquicentennial water bottles, and some people queued up to have them filled with spring water trucked to the park by Idaho City's Rocks Water.

The 5 1/2 -hour event began at 11:30 a.m., with Mayor Dave Bieter leading a bike parade from City Hall to the park.

"We had a great crowd," said Bieter, estimating the turnout of riders at more than 300.

Sunday's celebration featured a little bit of everything - live music, dance, poetry, painting, games, numerous food trucks and a wine/beer garden.

In the afternoon, Bieter made an official proclamation, declaring Sunday "Boise 150 Day." The city's original 10 blocks were platted on July 7, 1863.

The proclamation acknowledged the native people who lived in the region before the city was incorporated, as well as the early French-Canadian explorers who described the trees along the river - "les bois" - which was the basis for the city's name.

Cake is traditional at birthday parties, but Boise celebrated 150 years with doughnuts. They were piled up on platters.

Why doughnuts? The mayor wasn't exactly sure how that came about, but he was all for it.

"Never turn down doughnuts when you can have them," he said.

'EVERYTHING I NEED'

Mimi Kohnke was one of the newer city residents at the community party. The 55-year-old, who spent the past 12 years in Anchorage, said she chose Boise over Portland and two cities in Florida.

"I love Portland, but this community is smaller and more intimate," said Kohnke, whose brother, Bob, has lived in Boise more than three decades. "It has everything I need at this time in my life.

"And better weather than Portland," she said. "I can always go visit."

Longtime Boisean Twig Munro, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay area, agreed that the weather is one of the best things about Boise.

"It's great for your hair," said her daughter, Allie Fiero, 21, who nibbled on a slice of pizza. She said she likes that Boise is so close to fun places like Bogus Basin, Sun Valley and McCall.

"There's so many things to do without spending boatloads of money," Munro said.

Gay Bauwens said she appreciates Boise's easygoing lifestyle and room to breathe. And the airport.

"All this lovely simplicity," Bauwens said. "And you can visit the world, and come home."

'GLAD THAT I STAYED'

Gary Erickson, former chairman of Boise State University's electrical engineering program, came to Boise from Seattle 19 years ago.

His favorite part of the city is the river. He fishes for trout about once a week.

"Boise is small enough for you to get to know people," he said.

D'Adra Austin was born and raised in Boise.

"I love the outdoors, and I love the trees," said the 32-year-old mother of two. She and her husband like to ride ATVs.

Austin, who works at Costco, had no idea her hometown was holding a big birthday bash on Sunday.

"My mom said, 'Guess what we're doing after church?'" she said.

Boisean Fred Fritchman's roots run deep - four generations deep. His great-grandfather, Harry K. Fritchman, was mayor of Boise in 1911.

He and his family just got back from a road trip on Route 66. They visited great cities along the way, including Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco.

"It just made me really grateful to live here," said Fritchman, an exhibit designer at the Idaho State Historical Museum. "I like the setting - here on the river, with the Foothills. I like the size of the city and the friendliness of the people.

"It's 150 years old, and it just gets better," he said.

Fritchman said he almost left the area in the 1980s. "Am I ever glad that I stayed."

FREE HISTORY

One of the things that birthday celebrators got to do Sunday was visit the Idaho State Historical Museum for free.

Between 10 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., about 2,700 people had come through the museum's doors, officials said.

"This is a community event, and we're a community institution," Director Jody Ochoa said. "Hopefully, they'll come back and spend some more time."

While others lounged in the grass - talking, eating, drinking and playing - Mark Miller, a Boise photographer, set up an easel and began painting the Julia Davis rose garden.

Miller and his wife decided to move from Seattle to Boise 17 years ago to raise their family.

"I love the people here," he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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