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International Basque gathering Jaialdi postponed until 2025

An insignia for the international Basque cultural festival called Jaialdi.
Jaialdi 2025 Facebook Page

A Basque festival in Idaho is being postponed until 2025 as organizers strive to re-create an inclusive gathering for people from around the world.

“Keeping everyone safe has been our highest priority through this process, and we were faced with a choice: Limit the scope of the festival and access to its events, or postpone until 2025. We chose the latter,” organizers of the Jaialdi festival wrote on their Facebook page.

Jaialdi attracts an international crowd -- and an estimated 30,000 people, they said.

Basque country is in an area of modern-day northern Spain and southwest France. Many Basque people first came to the American West following the 1849 gold rush, working mainly as sheep herders, says Boise State University history professor John Bieter.

“They did that because they were used to rural farming and hard work. But most especially, they came with very little education, little to no language,” he said. “Basques trailed the sheep, literally, California to Nevada and into Idaho.”

Bieter said there have been Basque gatherings all around the West, including one near Reno, Nevada, in 1949. The first Jaialdi was staged in Boise in 1987.

“It was so successful that the state actually asked the Basque community to do it again in 1990, which was the centennial of Idaho statehood. And then from there, it’s gone on to an every five-year rotation,” he said.

That is, until 2020, when the Covid pandemic hit. Jaialdi was postponed to 2021, then to 2022, and now will be pushed again to 2025.

Marketing coordinator Julie Hahn said organizers didn’t want to exclude visitors from distant countries.

“We really wanted to be able to have all of our participants come in from Europe, from the Basque country, from all over the world and join us here safely, but we just couldn’t get to a point where that was possible,” she said.

Hahn said when the next Jaialdi is held, organizers want it to be without restrictions. That way, Basque people from Wyoming or Utah or Argentina can meet and enjoy the festival together.

“That’s what nice about Jaialdi is that all of these clubs get together with people from the original country that produced all of this diaspora and get to hang out together,” she said.

Bieter believes the postponement was the right choice.

“It’s just the sadness of postponement and then the looking forward to the next opportunity,” he said. “It really is just the connections with family and friends and music and dance and food and time to enjoy that. Sometimes I think its greatest magic is just the fundamental things that it celebrates.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.