Saturday was one of the most magical days that Boise has experienced in recent history. Julia Davis Park was packed from morning until after sunset in a centennial tribute to the vision of early Boise settlers Tom and Julia Davis, who gave the city its premiere park - an asset that Mayor Dave Bieter said is now valued at roughly a quarter of a billion dollars.
Thousands of people thronged the park for daytime activities including a satellite farmer's market, tours of the park's grand trees, free paddle boat rides, storytelling (here's Coston Frederick holding forth on how the parrot got its colors), sack races, and much more.
The day ended with a free concert featuring Boise's own Curtis Stigers and his swinging trio. As twilight tucked itself around the Gene Harris Bandshell - named for Stigers' mentor - the large and attentive audience enjoyed previews of most of the tracks from the jazz singer's upcoming CD, Real Emotional, already out in the UK and due here later this summer. Stigers - whose voice sounded fuller than ever - continues to draw deep into the well of rock, country, blues, and even kids' music to find songs that, as one reviewer put it, "haven't been done to death." He credited his daughter, Ruby, age 7, with helping him discover Dan Zanes' charming "Night Owl," which was the perfect song to offer as the sky above turned indigo. But he followed that up a few tunes later with Emmylou Harris' distinctly adult "I Don't Wanna Talk About It Now."
Stigers also did his share of soapboxing. He gave props to fellow Boise native Bieter for his commitment to Boise's quality of life and dedicated Mose Allison's "Your Mind is on Vacation" to the President of the United States. When that drew some of the night's loudest applause, Stigers wrly said, "I thought this was a red state." But the evening's most timely song may well have been Stigers' reading of Paul Simon's "An American Tune," unfortunately as contemporary today as when Simon wrote it during the Watergate era. I used this song in a lay-led Fourth of July service at my church two years ago, and it really could serve as an anthem for the United States in the Bush era.
Although he gave many shout-outs to Julia Davis and her family's vision in establishing the park, Stigers admitted several times during the evening to being "maudlin." One reason for that - in addition to depressing geopolitics and Gene Harris' memory - may have been the news that Victor Pacania, host of the long-running and much-beloved "Private Idaho" show on Boise State Radio, had passed away Saturday morning of pancreatic cancer. Stigers dedicated the last song of the night ("Love," one of the radio host's favorite Stigers tunes) to Pacania. It was a poignant close, and one more reminder that it's Boise's strong sense of community and caring that makes this such a great place to live.