Celebrating Boise’s Basque Heritage

By Rachel Holt, photography by Trevor and Amy Arana

“My favorite part of Jaialdi is the concept of getting people together to celebrate the Basque culture. Seeing so many people here together and connecting every 5 years be they from the Basque country or the US. Lots of the Basque language is spoken and people are just proud of their heritage and want to continue it,” says Amy Wray, Co-Director of this year’s Jaialdi.

Every five years, Boise is home to the Jaialdi festival. Originally started in 1987, Jaialdi promotes the Basque culture and is staffed by roughly 1,000 volunteers over the course of four days.

“It was a group of members of the Basque center that decided they wanted to throw a big festival to celebrate the Basque culture and have an event that exposes locals here as well as lets the Basque celebrate their rich culture. It’s always been a cultural festival, it’s never been political or anything else. It has been and continues to be a celebration of the Basque culture,” says Wray.SportsNightSokaTira

One person drawn to the festival is Father Antonio Eguiguren, who is from the Basque country and moved to Boise last November. “This will be my first experience with Jaialdi, and I’m very excited for it,” says Father Eguiguren. “I’d like to meet as many people as possible. I’m also excited for the different sports and the foods. Basque food is well known in this area and is said to be very delicious and creative. I’m really looking forward to it.”

This year’s event runs from Tuesday, July 28th to Sunday, August 2nd with a number of events and activities planned at different locations throughout Boise, including Century Link Arena, the Morrison Center, Expo Idaho and Boise’s Basque block. The Basque block is located in downtown Boise and is home to a number of Basque restaurants, the Basque Center, and the Basque history museum.

Wray shares, “Sports Night highlights the athletes from the Basque country. All the athletes that will compete that night will be from the Basque country and they will compete in the traditional sports, highlighting weightlifting among other events. Also, we will have a group of rural sports including things like throwing hay bales with pitchforks, a tug of war, and a big wagon competition. It’s all very fun to watch and it’s very different.”

In addition to the sports that will take place turning Jaialdi, on July 18th there will be a special Basque soccer match, where Athletic Bilbao—a Basque team that plays in La Liga against the likes of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid—will take on Club Tijuana—one of the top teams in the Mexico’s premier division, Liga MX. It is rare for teams of this caliber to play so close to home, so get tickets while you can—they start at just $35.

Thursday is the Sports Night events, while Friday night focuses more on the dancing and music. On Saturday and Sunday there are a number of exhibitions including dancing groups, a sports demonstration, lots of food, lots of drink, and everything else Basque, as well as the large dance on Saturday night.

Additionally, there will be the annual San Inazio Mass at St. Mark’s on Northview Street at 7 P.M. The mass will be in Basque and English.

Father Eguiguren says, “Faith is a very important of aspect of Basque culture. The Basque cultural unity has taken place around the faith. We are going to celebrate that unity in the mass, which is why Jaialdi is very important. All are welcome to come celebrate our cultural heritage and happiness of being members belonging to a larger family. We want to share this happiness in a very open and broad way.”

For more information about Jaialdi, volunteering, the schedule of events or ticketing, check out the festival website at: http://www.jaialdi.com/.