VALE – Art in the Park in Vale started more than 20 years ago when two middle school girls got into trouble for “tagging the playground equipment” in Wadleigh Park. They said they did so because the playground sets, which hadn’t been painted for a while, were ugly.
“I suggested that we go to the city council and ask if we can paint it,” said Sandijean Fuson, executive director of the Drexel H. Foundation. “They were the first crew to paint the sets on Flag Day and chose the colors and color scheme. So every year, we paint over to honor them.”
This year on Wednesday, June 14, more than 15 children, ranging from kindergarten to middle school, painted the playground sets, made their own “tiny murals” and created colorful sheep to honor the community’s Basque heritage.
Drexel Foundation raises money to host this annual event through various initiatives, including a bottle drive.
Last year, in conjunction with Idaho Power, the foundation installed an electric vehicle charging station at the Vale Hotel and Grand Opera House.
Patti Best, senior program specialist at Idaho Power, brought her Ford electric truck to this year’s parks event to highlight the benefits of electric vehicles on the environment.
Through an electric vehicle station incentive program, Idaho Power is trying to connect more to clean energy.
“Lots of our customers are asking about the technology so we are trying to set it up for them,” Best said.
Asked why electric vehicles and clean energy are necessary, Paige Beonap, one of the children at the event, said, “You can save a lot of trees from it.”
Best said Vale’s event was a great opportunity to show such technology to children.
“I’m just really impressed with the Drexel Foundation and how they inspire creativity in the community,” she said.
For middle schooler Abbi Christiansen, the best part of the event was having the opportunity to spend time with her friends.
“I went last year and it seemed like a blast,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ellie Moore divided her time between painting and climbing the structures in the park.
Her brother, Ian Moore, paired up with Sawyer Alvarado to paint the seesaw, while talking about the book series he is writing.
Lydia Butler of Nyssa, who won the “Best in Show” award for her artwork, said she attended Art in the Park because “I just wanted to see my friends again and they said they were coming here.”
The young artists will have the chance to display their artwork at the Art Camp and Talent Show that Drexel plans in August.
Fuson sees this annual event as a way to empower children and provide them opportunities to express themselves.
“I love working with kids and a lot of young ones that are involved have incredible success stories. We have filmmakers, actors and actresses, lawyers and teachers that have been involved in Drexel programming,” she said.
Through this event, she said, “Every year, we remind ourselves how lucky we are to be free, how lucky we are to have our flag and how we can make our community better.”
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