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Jaialdi Basque festival canceled again over COVID-19 concerns

The event will return to Boise in 2025.

BOISE, Idaho — The popular Basque festival Jaialdi will not be held in Boise in 2022 as planned, marking the third straight year COVID-19 concerns have postponed or canceled the event. 

Every five years Basque culture takes center stage in the city of Trees. COVID though has complicated the calendar.

“It’s been a two-year saga now at this point,” said Julie Hahn, Marketing Director for Jaialdi.

On Friday, Hahn unfortunately had this news to share:

“After trying to postpone a couple of times our original festival of Jaialdi 2020 first went to Jaialdi 2021, then to Jaialdi 2022. We are now canceling and so we will be jumping ahead to Jaialdi 2025,” Hahn said.

In 1987, Jaialdi was originally intended as a one-off cultural festival in Boise, but then-Governor Cecil Andrus asked the Boise Basque community to hold another in 1990 to celebrate the state's 100th anniversary. After the success in 1990, it was decided that the festival Jaialdi should be held every five years.

The move puts Jaialdi back on the traditional 5-year rotation for the worldwide Basque celebration hosted in Boise. It’s not because of a lack of effort though, event organizers did their best to make beloved event happen to its fullest.

“We really tried hard to make this happen. Jaialdi is an entirely volunteer effort, we don’t have any paid staffers. So, this was a true labor of love to move the festival twice, but it just got to the point where we couldn’t in good conscious hold it next year,” Hahn said.

The deciding factor in that decision is simply COVID concerns, Jaialdi draws thousands of people from around the world to Boise. Something tricky to do safely during a pandemic.

“You have everybody from little, tiny kids all the way up to elderly grandmothers who are coming and having the festival with us. So, it really just became about making sure that everybody could celebrate safely,” Hahn said.

Organizers know it’s disappointing for those so looking forward to the event, but, they didn’t want to ask everyone to, again, reschedule their flights, hotels, and other accommodations.

“It is difficult with the restrictions and like you are seeing in Europe, certain counties are starting to lock down again, they have an increase in cases, and the fact of the matter is: the whole situation is just so volatile that it became too much to ask everyone to reschedule everything, yet again,” Hahn said.

Celebrating is at the core of Jaialdi, and event organizers didn’t want COVID to hamper the excitement and full experiece of the jubilee.

“Oh yeah, for sure! Basque people love to have a big party, the more the merrier. So, we really didn’t want to have something that wouldn’t be open to everybody,” Hahn said.  

Jaialdi organizers say they want to make it very clear: Jaialdi has not been canceled forever. An encouraging note for the Basque community since COVID hit has been the support from the Basque family and beyond.

“The support from people as we have gone through this process has been really overwhelming and I think the silver lining for us is, it shows just how committed people are to preserving and celebrating Basque culture and Basque-American culture and that is really hopeful for us,” Hahn said.   

Organizers are still firming up the plan for refunding the money of those who were going to attend. Attendees who bought flights or hotel rooms for the event should contact their airline or hotel directly.

“Jaialdi is one of the biggest events in the state,” said Jaialdi board member Amy Wray. “This celebration typically attracts everyone from small children to elderly grandparents, as well as a large contingent of visitors from overseas. We couldn’t find a path forward that would keep all of our attendees safe without severely curtailing access to the event or limiting its scope.” 

Event staff will share more details on the Jaialdi festival website and social media accounts in the coming days. 

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