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In this May 17, 2009, file photo, country music star Roy Clark performs after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show "Hee Haw" for nearly a quarter century, died Thursday in Tulsa, Okla., publicist Jeremy Westby said. He was 85. 

Festival of Giving kicks off its 7th year in a new location

TWIN FALLS — Kathie Stewart collected unicorns, dragons and fairies for more than a year.

On Nov. 8, she purposefully placed her horde of fantastical beasts among the boughs of a Christmas tree. Dangling also from the fake branches were decorative “fairy doors” Stewart crafted herself.

“I like fairies and I make these all the time and sell them,” said Stewart, who has a home-operated pottery business.

As a member at the Y, she was also thrilled to help out the Magic Valley YMCA with its tree this year at the Festival of Giving.

“This is my first time decorating and designing it,” Stewart said. “I just go nuts. It’s what I think about at 3 o’clock in the morning when I can’t sleep.”

The YMCA is one of 30 nonprofits to be featured in the seventh annual Festival of Giving, which kicks off Friday night at the Fleur de Lis Ranch. The new venue is at 3477 N. 2900 East, near the Joslin Field — Magic Valley Regional Airport.

While the Friday evening and Saturday evening events are sold out, the public will still have plenty of chances through Monday to view the festive display, take photos and bid on trees, wreaths and gift baskets.

5 ways to take part in this year's Festival of Giving

TWIN FALLS — Tickets are sold out to Friday’s Gala of Giving and Saturday’s BBQ, Brews & Bids, but here’s a preview of the different events and showings that will be open to the public as part of the Festival of Giving at the Fleur de Lis Ranch, 3477 N. 2900 E., south of town:

“We’ll have about 45 trees this year,” said Debra Hansen, Festival of Giving director and co-organizer.

Some of the trees were donated by corporate sponsors or businesses, while others were decorated by the nonprofits themselves. Each nonprofit finds a sponsor to make a donation on its behalf to the event. The nonprofit gets that donation money back, as well as proceeds from its tree or wreath that sells during or after the event.

The rest of the money from the corporate trees or from ticket sales goes into a general fund, President Mark Hansen said.

“A hundred percent of the profits go back to the nonprofits,” he said. “The general fund is awarded on a points-based system.”


Angela Henson decorates a tree for Troy Henson at Gateway Real Estate on Nov. 8 at Fleur de Lis Ranch in Twin Falls.

Nonprofits earn points through participation, such as selling tickets or logging in volunteer hours for the event. Each point is a share in the overall profits.

This year, six new nonprofit groups are participating: Habitat for Humanity of the Magic Valley, Twin Falls Optimist Youth House, Ronald McDonald House Foundation, Ready! for Kindergarten, Jerome Community School Strategy and Tough Enough to Wear Pink.

This year’s event features trees such as the YMCA’s “Unlock the Magic” tree, the Twin Falls Senior Center’s snowman-themed tree and some others featuring Harry Potter or gnomes. Habitat for Humanity’s tree is decorated with ornaments made from things repurposed from the Re-Store.

“We dismantled an entire spring mattress,” Executive Director Linda Fleming said. Volunteers and board members used golf balls, door handles, nuts and bolts to put together some snowman and snowflake ornaments.

“Everything looks better with glitter,” Fleming said.

The Habitat for Humanity tree will be sold with a playhouse made by a board member. The nonprofit will use the funds raised this year to help pay for a five-bedroom house it’s building for a single mom with five children in Jerome. The road leading to the house cost more than $50,000 to construct.

“It’s going to help us pay that bill,” she said.

Missy Aslett, membership director for the YMCA, said the fundraiser helps significantly with paying for scholarships for YMCA members.

“We’re so lucky to have Kathie helping us this year,” Aslett said. “She creates her own fairyland.”


Donna Bywater, a fitness instructor at the YMCA, decorates a tree Nov. 8 at Fleur de Lis Ranch in Twin Falls.

About the venue

Brad and Linda Lanting moved to Idaho in June after selling their trucking company. They bought the ranch just north of the airport because they liked having an indoor arena for their draft horses. But the large facility was really more than they needed.

Now, the Lantings have committed themselves to giving back to the community by hosting the Festival of Giving. The event outgrew its former venue at the Southern Idaho Landscape Center.

“It becomes a full-time job,” Linda Lanting said.

The Fleur de Lis Ranch will be easily recognizable as you go south from Twin Falls to the airport. Just look for the white fence and large horse statues at the main entrance.

“I like that everyone in the community can be involved in this event,” Linda Lanting said.

California town's wildfire evacuation plan raises questions

MAGALIA, Calif. — Ten years ago, as two wildfires advanced on Paradise, residents jumped into their vehicles to flee and got stuck in gridlock. That led authorities to devise a staggered evacuation plan — one that they used when fire came again last week.

But Paradise's carefully laid plans quickly devolved into a panicked exodus on Nov. 8. Some survivors said that by the time they got warnings, the flames were already extremely close, and they barely escaped with their lives. Others said they received no warnings at all.

Now, with at least 63 people dead and more than 630 unaccounted for in the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century, authorities are facing questions of whether they took the right approach.

It's also a lesson for other communities across the West that could be threatened as climate change and overgrown forests contribute to longer, more destructive fire seasons.

Reeny Victoria Breevaart, who lives in Magalia, a forested community of 11,000 people north of Paradise, said she couldn't receive warnings because cellphones weren't working. She also lost electrical power.

Just over an hour after the first evacuation order was issued at 8 a.m., she said, neighbors came to her door to say: "You have to get out of here."

Shari Bernacett, who with her husband managed a mobile home park in Paradise where they also lived, received a text ordering an evacuation. "Within minutes the flames were on top of us," she said.

Bernacett packed two duffel bags while her husband and another neighbor knocked on doors, yelling for people to get out. The couple grabbed their dog and drove through 12-foot flames to escape.

In the aftermath of the disaster, survivors said authorities need to devise a plan to reach residents who can't get a cellphone signal in the hilly terrain or don't have cellphones at all.

In his defense, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said evacuation orders were issued through 5,227 emails, 25,643 phone calls and 5,445 texts, in addition to social media and the use of loudspeakers. As cellphone service went down, authorities went into neighborhoods with bullhorns to tell people to leave, and that saved some lives.

Honea said he was too busy with the emergency and the recovery of human remains to analyze how the evacuation went. But he said it was a big, chaotic, fast-moving situation, and there weren't enough law enforcement officers to go out and warn everyone.

"The fact that we have thousands and thousands of people in shelters would clearly indicate that we were able to notify a significant number of people," the sheriff said.

Meanwhile, a utility facing severe financial pressure amid speculation its equipment may have sparked a deadly Northern California wildfire asked U.S. energy regulators last month for permission to raise its customers' monthly bills to harden its system against wildfires and deliver a sizable increase in profits to shareholders.

In an October filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. laid out a variety of dangers confronting its transmission lines running through Northern California, saying its system faced a higher risk of wildfires than any other utility.

"The implications of PG&E's exposure to potential liabilities associated with wildfires are dramatically magnified," the filing said.

On Thursday, firefighters reported progress in battling the nearly 220-square-mile blaze that displaced 52,000 people and destroyed more than 9,500 homes. It was 40 percent contained, fire officials said.

President Donald Trump plans to travel to California on Saturday to visit victims of the wildfires burning at both ends of the state.

The Paradise fire once again underscored shortcomings in warning systems.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in September requiring the development of statewide guidelines for Amber Alert-like warnings.

In 2008, the pair of wildfires that menaced Paradise destroyed 130 homes. No one was seriously hurt, but the chaos highlighted the need for a plan.

Paradise sits on a ridge between two higher hills, with only one main exit out of town. The best solution seemed to be to order evacuations in phases, so people didn't get trapped.

"Gridlock is always the biggest concern," said William Stewart, a forestry professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Authorities developed an evacuation plan that split the town of 27,000 into zones and called for a staggered exodus. Paradise even conducted a mock evacuation during a morning commute, turning the main thoroughfare into a one-way street out of town.

Last week, when a wind-whipped fire bore down on the town, the sheriff's department attempted an orderly, phased evacuation, instead of blasting a cellphone alert over an entire area.

Phil John, chairman of the Paradise Ridge Fire Safe Council, defended the evacuation plan he helped develop. John said that the wildfire this time was exceptionally fast-moving and hot, and that no plan was going to work perfectly.

At the other end of the state, meanwhile, crews continued to gain ground against a blaze of more than 153 square miles that destroyed over 500 structures in Malibu and other Southern California communities. At least three deaths were reported.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.

Wonder why the Middleton costumes were offensive? Here’s what Latinos say

MIDDLETON — Heads shook and palms met faces two weeks ago when Idaho went viral. The details — teachers at a Middleton elementary school dressed as Mexicans and made a mock border wall — were new. But the perceived racism behind them sent a familiar message to outsiders: For all the cool Top 10 lists Idaho towns show up on, it’s still a backward state.

But what, exactly, makes the message racist? And are the teachers racist?

“A wall is not racist,” said Beth Hedger, a Facebook user, in a comment on an Idaho Statesman story. “Get a clue.”

Hedger is wrong about that, said several Treasure Valley Latinos who spoke to the Idaho Statesman. They say President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is a symbol of his and his supporters’ racist desire to keep Mexicans out of the United States.

Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was written across the wall. School staffers who were dressed as the Statue of Liberty, an eagle and Uncle Sam held it up in one of several photos that the Middleton School District posted to its Facebook page.

The district hastily removed the photos and suspended staff members who were involved, but the damage was done. By noon Nov. 2, news stories about the costumes were everywhere.

The imagery reinforced many Latinos’ belief that white people don’t want them here, said Gustavo Acosta, a deejay for La Gran D, a radio station that broadcasts from a small studio in east Nampa. The fact that pictures of the costumes surfaced a week before Election Day, which was in part a referendum on Trump’s immigration policies, made it even worse, Acosta said.

“I would expect it from a group of young people,” Acosta said. “I would expect it in a private home or business. But I wouldn’t expect it, first, from adults, and second, people with professional ethics.”

Diana Hernandez, a Kuna woman who’s studying to become a Spanish teacher, doesn’t think the people who took part in the Middleton display are racists. But their costumes conveyed an offensive message to Latinos and set a bad example for white students, she said.

“How do you expect our students to respect other cultures, to be inclusive, if their teachers are getting away with this kind of behavior?” she said.

What’s worse — a stereotype or a wall?

A few voices stood out from the crowd of groans that dominated social media after the posts. Some, less strident than Hedger, agreed the teachers’ display was in poor taste but called for calm and perspective.

“People need to grow a thicker skin,” Facebook user Kim Nottingham wrote in a Nov. 4 comment. “I doubt there was any harm intended.”


Staff from the Middleton district dressed as Mexicans on Halloween.

Representatives of Middleton Heights Elementary School and the Middleton School District declined repeated Idaho Statesman requests for comment on why the teachers were dressed as they were. Some on social media and at a school district meeting Monday said it was for a non-school activity. They said staff members were directed to wear costumes that represented various countries.

“I don’t think a wall represents the United States,” Hernandez said.

“They weren’t dressed as Mexicans,” said J.J. Saldana, a community resource development specialist for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “They were dressed as a stereotype.”

Hernandez has seen that kind of costume before. Born in Mexico, Hernandez, now 31, moved to the U.S. when she was 16. She said classmates at Nampa High School poked fun at her accent and called her “wetback” or “illegal.” Her first Halloween, she saw people in the same kind of costumes the Middleton teachers wore two weeks ago. She was confused.

“We Mexicans, we don’t dress as Americans for Halloween,” she said. “But as the years went by, I found it more offensive. I was like, ‘Well, they’re making fun of us. They’re making fun of our culture.’”

Katy Moeller, Idaho Statesman 

Heights Elementary School is in the small town of Middleton, about 20 miles west of Boise.

The wall was more offensive, Hernandez said. Other Latinos who spoke to the Statesman agreed. They said the wall evoked fear of deportation and the trauma — families torn apart, legal proceedings, financial distress — it entails. Saldana said it promoted a stereotype that all Latinos in the United States came here illegally.

“It’s not just the undocumented families that feel this way,” Saldana said. “A lot of these parents are probably here legally, but they’re still feeling very disrespected by it.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the United States’ Latino population last year at almost 60 million. Mexicans living in the country illegally make up less than 15 percent of that number, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates.

Idaho’s reputation

Cinthya Herrera, a community health worker for a clinic in Boise, said she wasn’t surprised to see a racist — or at least racially insensitive — display in Idaho. She said she has come to expect that behavior here.

“Which is very sad, because we should hold Idahoans up to a higher standard than that,” Herrera said.

Like Hernandez, she thinks the Middleton teachers’ display condones — intentionally or not — racist behavior by whites and feelings of inferiority in Latinos. She compared dressing up like Mexicans to whites wearing blackface.

“Not understanding why people would be offended by that ... just shows the level of privilege that many Idahoans have that the minorities do not have the luxury of,” Herrera said.

Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, said their actions were especially damaging because Latino children are taught to revere and not question educators.

The costumes and the furor that erupted after the photos surfaced have damaged Idaho’s reputation, Gonzalez said.

“We’re trying to take one step forward and when something like this happens, I feel like it’s taking us three steps back,” she said.

Was suspension enough?

All of the teachers and aides involved in the Middleton display are back at work, though Principal Kim Atkinson remains on administrative leave. Acosta, the deejay, said that’s premature. He said they should have been suspended longer to give them more time to contemplate what they did and reflect on their responsibilities as educators.

“This was planned. It wasn’t something that happened one minute to the next, right?” he said. “There was a discussion.”

Whether they’re racist or believe in building a wall at the border or not, Herrera said, the school’s faculty has been tainted by their display.

“Whatever their viewpoint is, I hope that that doesn’t impact their teaching,” she said.


Carey's Porter Mecham (49) goes up against Lighthouse Christian's Brandon Butler Friday night, Aug. 31, 2018, at Carey High School.

Victims of tree trimming accident both expecting babies, funds set up to help families

BURLEY — Two men involved in a tree trimming accident on Tuesday both have young families and baby daughters on the way.

GoFundMe accounts have been established for the families of both men.

The accident at 780 N. 1150 East in Cassia County killed Corbin Bowers, 28, and critically injured Emmett Koyle, 26, both of Burley.

The men were employed by Tree Trouble.

Corbin Bowers and his wife Mikala have a son, Sawyer, 1, and a baby on the way.

“Mikala is due in February with a little girl,” Mikala Bowers’ brother Ryan Lindsay said.

Laurie Welch Times-News / COURTESY PHOTO  

Corbin Bowers and his wife, Mikala, and his son, Sawyer.

Lindsay said Corbin Bowers exceeded any expectations that he had for his sister’s husband.

Bowers had purchased a house in Burley and switched jobs “to better support his family,” Lindsay said.

He was a “loving father” who never raised his voice or spoke ill of anyone, Lindsay said.

“He was one of the best guys I’ve ever known.”

Koyle and Bowers were in a bucket truck 60 feet from the ground and had tied a limb to the bucket. When the branch was cut, it pulled the bucket and the men to the ground. Bowers was killed on impact.

An account for Bowers’s family has been established at

Koyle was taken to Portneuf Medical Center and then transferred to the University of Utah Hospital.

Blood flow had to be rerouted in his crushed body and he had numerous fractured bones, including in his pelvis and a badly injured leg.

“Emmett is extremely hard working and devoted to his family,” his sister Camille Koyle said in a Facebook message. “He’s been so excited anticipating their little twin girls, which are due in April.”

Koyle and his wife, Lindsey also have a year-old son.

Camille Koyle said the doctors were letting Emmett rest on Wednesday before more surgeries and they are not sure if his leg will have to be amputated.

A fund to help the Koyle family can be found at

“These men were doing their job and a doing a phenomenal job of accomplishing the task in front of them when a maneuver that had been accomplished several times that day went wrong and ended in a terrible way,” the owners of Tree Trouble posted on a company website.

Tree Trouble is owned by Scott Yates.

Koyle and Bowers had recently started work for the company.