The World's largest celebration of Basque culture—in Boise.
Photography Glenn Oakley
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Other teenagers are selling croquetas (fried, creamy balls filled with chicken and ham) and lamb chops—a tribute to the sheep herding that brought many of the first Basques to Idaho.
“Even now, if you spend Thanksgiving with an Idaho Basque, you’re likely to get soup, rice, garbanzo beans, chorizos, rice pudding, flan. Every once in awhile, we throw in a turkey,” says Dave Eiguren, head of the Jaialdi 2005 organizing committee. “The food you see here—this is our food.”
Boise has the distinction of hosting the largest Jaialdis—Basque festivals—in the world. Idaho is home to one of the largest concentrations of Basques outside of Spain, and many as 30,000 of Idaho’s population are counted as either Basque immigrants or Basque-Americans.
Names such as Echevarria, Ansotegui, Uberuaga, and Goicoechea have taken their places next to the Smiths and the Joneses in phone books from Payette to Hailey, where Epi Inchausti (also known as “Grandma Epi”) used to serve Basque food to celebrities like Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, and even Colonel Sanders in her bar and boarding house on West Bullion Street (in the building that now houses Urban Voodoo Tattoo and Body Piercing). And today, Boise’s Euzkaldunak Club is pushing 900 members, making it the largest Basque cultural club in the United States.
Idaho Basques organized the first Jaialdi in 1987 and held it within the tan sandstone walls of Idaho’s historic Old Penitentiary. It was intended to be a one-time deal—a big party done up the Basque way. But it proved so popular, attracting more than 30,000 participants and spectators, that Idaho’s governor asked the Basque community to organize another for Idaho’s Centennial in 1990.
The 1990 festival was such a success that the organizers voted to continue hosting a Jaialdi every five years. “It’s so much fun because you get to meet dancers and hear music from the Basque homeland and from other states,” says Jill Aldape, a member of the Oinkari Basque Dancers. “And you get to see the real sports pros.”>>>