BOISE — Idaho Falls played a central role in the Idaho Day celebration in the Senate. On Thursday, the Senate took a pause from legislating to pay homage to the state they serve. Idaho Day celebrates the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the document that created the Idaho Territory in 1863.
It started off with Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, describing his miserable first visit to Idaho Falls as a child. Visiting from his home state of Utah, Cook’s family went to watch the Fourth of July parade. Despite being the middle of summer, it started to snow. He has since made the town his home, and his love for the state has grown over the years.
“I’ve done 60-mile backpack trips across the Sawtooth mountain ranges. I’ve biked around the Coeur d’Alene Lake with a bunch of varsity Scouts through mining towns like Wallace … and Kellogg. I’ve hunted elk up in the Tex Creek area and in Leadore. We call Idaho home. And I am grateful to be here, even though it snows on the Fourth of July,” Cook said.
Stephanie Thompson, a singer from Idaho Falls, sang “America the Beautiful” and “Here We Have Idaho,” the state song. The flowers decorating the Senate chambers were sent by two Idaho Falls residents, Kelly and Linda Beckstead.
The main speaker was Linden Bateman, a five-term former Idaho Falls representative, history teacher and local historian. Bateman was one of the main proponents of the creation of Idaho Day, which became an official state holiday in 2014. He has become a regular speaker on the history of Idaho.
Bateman began by noting that 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of Idaho’s Capitol building. He became nostalgic when remembering his Legislature days when he’d stroll the halls of the building at 2 a.m. to enjoy its beauty while everything was quiet.
”This unique, neoclassic structure features light shafts, skylights and reflective marble, which directs natural light into the heart of the building, thus becoming known as the Capitol of Light. This is the Capitol of Light,” Bateman said.
Bateman spoke of the portraits of past legislators that hang in the halls of the Capitol. He became emotional as he remembered friends and colleagues that served in the Legislature and are now memorialized on the walls. He brought up one of his favorite former Idaho leaders: Edward A. Stevenson, governor of Idaho Territory from 1885 to 1889. Stevenson convinced President Grover Cleveland not to dismantle Idaho and later helped the territory obtain statehood. He was surprised to find that, upon asking Senate pages if they knew of Stevenson, they did not.
“Gov. Stevenson saved Idaho. … People don’t even know who Edward Stevenson was. No one knows his name, as very few people know the names of other people on the portraits in these halls,” Bateman said.
It is essential, said Bateman, to remember Idaho’s history and ensure its young people learned what happened “on the soil we live on.”
“They need to be inspired. Because when they’re inspired they want to serve,” Bateman said.