The World's largest celebration of Basque culture—in Boise.
Photography Glenn Oakley
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A rhythmic click-click-click reverberates through the air. A dozen young men—clad in white shirts and pants, red berets, and red sashes tied around their waists—are skipping past each other, striking wooden hoops as they go. The crowd cheers as the dancers kick their feet high over their heads and then jump into 360-degree turns, the toes and the red-and-green laces of their white, rope-soled shoes pointing gracefully toward the ground.
Accompanying them is happy, melodic music in the two-third time of a polka. One musician in a red beret plays a trikitixia (accordion). Another fingers a txistu (a three-holed, flutelike instrument held straight up and down, rather than sideways) with his left hand, while tapping out a rhythm with his right on a small tanbolina drum.
The music prompts an elderly Basque lady to dance across the grass, tapping to the beat with her cane. Fathers pick up their young children and dance merrily around with them in their arms.
This may not be the type of scene you would expect to encounter at a festival on a hot summer day in Idaho. But then again, Jaialdi isn’t like any other festival.
In another area of the grounds, Basques from the Old Country are competing against American-born upstarts in a traditional game, seeing how much weight they can drag, in a human version of the tractor pull. Elsewhere, a choir from Nevada is trying to out-harmonize a choir from San Francisco in Euskara, the unique language of the Basques.
At Jaialdi, hamburgers play second fiddle to chorizos—spicy red Basque sausages that most nearly resemble Polish sausages. Garlic and sautéed onions sizzle on the grill as teenagers dressed in the red, green, and white colors of the motherland serve up solomos—marinated pork-loin sandwiches topped with tangy pimiento strips. The Old Country Basques found in pimientos a delicious way of using overripe sweet red peppers—and they have become a trademark of today’s Basque cooking. >>>