Wintry clouds precipitated snow, brumal winds howled unrelentingly and temperatures plummeted toward freezing. The date: Tuesday, May 21, just over a week ago.
Despite the unseasonal conditions, the venerated ladies of the Blaine County Heritage Court convened at The Community Library’s Regional History Museum in Ketchum for their annual tea party. Though weather discouraged it, some even made the drive from Gannett and Carey. In total, more than 30 people attended the event.
“In the past three years, this ceremony, this Heritage Court Tea, has become a hallmark of spring,” said Community Library Director Jenny Emery-Davidson, meeting some light chuckles with regards to the weather. “It’s a bright spot in the springtime even when nature hasn’t quite caught up yet.”
The purpose of this particular assembly was to announce and confirm the 2019 Heritage Court. Each year, the group names four Blaine County women to serve as the new Heritage Court, promoting the study of local history in their communities, taking part in various parades and festivals over the summer and, of course, partaking of a nice cup of tea here and there.
Heritage Court co-founder Teddie Daley related the story of how it all started.
“In 2004,” she began, “I met this woman [the late Laura Hall] outside the museum in Hailey. I was lamenting the fact that we didn’t get our name out to the public very often, that no one knew about the rich local history of the area, and she said, ‘I have an idea.’”
That year, the inaugural Heritage Court was formed. The group honors women over 70 who have resided in Blaine County for at least 30 years. The Blaine County Historical Museum in Hailey records the women’s life stories to preserve a firsthand account of local history as it unfolds.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet the women and hear their stories,” said Vonnie Olsen of Carey, a 2018 Heritage Court member. “The court brings together women from all over Blaine County, so at gatherings like this, you get to meet and talk to people you normally wouldn’t.”
This year’s four Heritage Court nominees hail from four Blaine County communities. From Hailey comes Verla Goitiandia. She was nominated personally by the Heritage Court committee following years of service supporting the court’s numerous events.
Connie Grabow comes from Ketchum, and has served as a board member for The Community Library, worked with The Hunger Coalition and acted as a board member of Moritz Hospital.
From Bellevue comes Pamela Rayborn. Born in Sun Valley, she spent much of her youth in the Wood River Valley before travelling to Utah, Delaware and even Germany for her studies. Though still an avid traveler, she calls Bellevue home.
The Blaine County Fair Board nominated Judy Peterson of Gannett. Born in California, where her father worked during World War II, she and her family relocated to Idaho when she was 2. Since then, she has remained a steadfast staple of Blaine County. Her family—including 10 grandchildren—still mostly live in the area.
Together, those four women will contribute to the chronicle of Blaine County’s history, sharing their experiences and anecdotes with the museum to further develop a comprehensive understanding of local life.
The purpose of last Tuesday’s tea was to announce and introduce the 2019 Heritage Court. They will all officially be sworn in to their new positions during a Coronation Ceremony at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey on Sunday, June 9, at 3 p.m.
The ceremony includes a crowning of sorts and adornment of the traditional Heritage Court sashes. Throughout this, the tea and their other engagements, the court members all wear a particular Heritage costume, designed and sewn by a local seamstress. According to Grace Eakin of Bellevue, a 2017 court member, the design “aims to capture that pioneer aesthetic,” further underlining the court’s role as a historical group.
Once confirmed in the coronation, the ladies will look ahead to a busy summer of events, including appearances in parades and festivals in Hailey, Carey, Ketchum and Bellevue.
First of those is the Fourth of July Hailey Days of the Old West parade, which starts at noon.
Later that same month, on July 20, the Heritage Court parade carriage will participate in the Pioneer Days parade in Carey, kicking off at 11 a.m.
The court can enjoy a bit of a break for a little over a month, but then has two nearly back-to-back engagements at the end of the summer. On Saturday, Aug. 31, they will ride in Ketchum’s annual Wagon Days parade. Just two days later, on Monday, Sept. 2, the court will take part in the Bellevue Labor Day parade.
Throughout the summer, the court will continually promote the study and understanding of local history, and work closely with the Blaine County Historical Museum.
“It’s important to us to think of history not as something that happened 200 years ago, but as something that is being made all of the time, and that is one of the reasons the Heritage Court is so important,” Emery-Davidson said.
To learn more about the Heritage Court and to find biographies of past members, visit bchistoricalmuseum.org/category/heritage-court.