TWIN FALLS — Mary Debski and Jessica Barker almost drove from Jerome to the Treasure Valley on Sunday — just to go to Olive Garden.
But they decided to be patient and instead were the first in line to eat at the new Olive Garden in Twin Falls on Monday, arriving about an hour before the 11 a.m. opening.
The duo were the first of about 25 people in line — despite low temperatures and high winds. Debski came prepared, bundled up in a winter coat and mouse hat. Both women already knew what they wanted to order: a five cheese ziti for Barker and the fettuccine Alfredo for Debski.
This also wasn’t Debski’s first rodeo, so to speak.
“I was the first in line for Denny’s (opening),” she said.
Another of her favorite Twin Falls restaurants: Pizza Pie Café. “They know me so well that when I open the door they start making my pizza,” Debski said.
Next in line behind Barker was Kris Fitzgerald, who found out the night before when the restaurant was opening.
“It was more a spur of the moment thing last night,” he said of his decision to come.
But Fitzgerald did tweet to the corporate Olive Garden account to tell him how happy he was to see one open in Twin Falls. He used to go to Olive Garden in California, he said, but since moving to Twin Falls he hasn’t been to one in at least a decade.
Residents of Twin Falls have been asking for an Olive Garden for years.
“I’m pretty sure one of the first phone calls I got was ‘Hey, I heard Olive Garden was coming,’” Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Shawn Barigar said.
That was 14 years ago, and he figures he’s gotten a similar call every year since.
“We’re very very happy to be a part of the community,” Twin Falls Olive Garden General Manager Jack Winn told a group gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony took place with the chamber of commerce, during which Barigar thanked the company for its investment in Twin Falls. Olive Garden had planned on using a breadstick in lieu of a ribbon, but was unable to because what it received wasn’t exactly what it ordered in.
In preparation for opening, the local restaurant hired 183 people — out of almost 650 applications — Winn told the Times-News.
The restaurant had a friends-and-family event last weekend to help get its staff prepared for the crowds. By 8 p.m. Saturday night, there was a 45-minute wait, Winn said. The event was also used as a fundraising opportunity for a local nonprofit.
“Over the friends and family weekend, all the drink proceeds were to go to us,” said Donna Graybill, executive director of Voices Against Violence.
Her group’s nomination came in part because a Voices Against Violence case worker’s mother works at Olive Garden, she said. Graybill noted that while there is sometimes negative correlation with alcohol and domestic violence, the one doesn’t cause the other.
While team members invited their family members out for the weekend, Olive Garden also made a quick push into the community — and the invites went fast, Winn said.
Another Twin Falls resident who made the restaurant’s opening a priority was Jennifer McLemore, who said she’s been waiting for an Olive Garden in town for about 20 years. She took the day off from her self-owned business to take her three children out to eat.
“I’m excited about the salad,” McLemore said. “I love their salad.”
Olive Garden will not be accepting reservations for the first week, Winn said. Once it gets going, an online system will allow people to book their spot in line and get updated on when they will be able to be seated.
A group of five black men shouting vulgar insults while protesting centuries of oppression. Dozens of white Catholic high school students visiting Washington for a rally to end abortion. Native Americans marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe who have seen their lands overrun by outside settlers.
The three groups met for just a few minutes Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, an encounter captured in videos that went viral over the weekend — and again cast a spotlight on a polarized nation that doesn't appear to agree on anything.
At first the focus was on a short video showing one of the high school students, Nick Sandmann, wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat and appearing to smirk while a crowd of other teens laughed derisively behind him as a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips, played a traditional chant on a drum.
Pull back further and a different view emerged, however, in a separate video showing members of a group calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March "Uncle Tomahawks" and "$5 Indians" and the high school students "crackers" and worse.
It was an ugly encounter of spewed epithets but one that nevertheless ended with no violence.
Still, the videos were all over social media, again appearing to illustrate a nation of such deep divisions — racial, religious and ideological — that no one was willing to listen to the others' point of view. Add to that the political tensions spilling over from a government shutdown that has gone on for a month and the stage was set for a viral moment. But in this case it didn't tell the whole story, all the parties involved agree.
"I would caution everyone passing judgment based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas," Sandmann, a junior, said in a statement released late Sunday.
Sandmann's statement seems at odds with some video from the confrontation that showed students from his school, Covington Catholic High in Park Hills, Kentucky, laughing at Phillips' Native American group and mockingly singing along with him, as well as interviews with Phillips who said he heard the students shout "Build that wall!" and "Go back to the reservation!"
The fullest view of what happened that Friday afternoon came from a nearly two-hour video posted on Facebook by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan. It showed members of his Black Hebrew Israelite group repeatedly interacting with the crowd as people from the Indigenous Peoples March and the high school students vigorously argued with them for a few minutes.
Sandmann said in his statement the students from his all-male high school were waiting for their buses near Banyamyan's group when the latter started to taunt them. One of the students took off his shirt and the teens started to do a haka — a war dance of New Zealand's indigenous Maori culture, made famous by the country's national rugby team.
Phillips, an elder of the Omaha tribe, and Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes, said they felt the students were mocking the dance and walked over to intervene.
Phillips and Sandmann locked eyes, their faces inches apart. Both said their goal was simply to make sure things didn't get out of hand.
The high school students felt they were unfairly portrayed as villains in a situation where they say they were not the provocateurs.
"I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination," Sandmann said in his statement.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington apologized for the incident, promising an investigation that could lead to punishment up to expulsion if any wrongdoing by the students was determined.
The Indigenous Peoples Movement felt the encounter was a reminder the U.S. was founded on racism and President Donald Trump's presidency is rekindling hatred based on skin color.
"Trump has riled up a reactionary voting block that reminds us that we are a nation founded on patriarchy, genocide and racism. Trump is clearly giving these archaic instincts license, encouraging the kind of aggressive goading that I witnessed," movement spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said in a statement.
Trump himself weighed in with a tweet Monday night as some news reports questioned whether the early criticism of the students was warranted. The president tweeted, in part: "Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!"
Banyamyan posted his own reaction on Facebook, referencing the dozens of high school students in their Make America Great Again gear coming over to his group of five and chanting. In a rambling video, he also praised Phillips and compared Sandmann to the devil.
If you do one thing: Hagerman Valley Historical Society will feature a presentation by College of Southern Idaho geology professor and author Shawn Willsey at 7 p.m. at the Hagerman Senior Center, 140 E. Lake St.
BOISE — A rising share of high school students taking classes at the College of Southern Idaho is forcing the college to look for creative ways to adapt, CSI President Jeff Fox told the state Legislature in presentations Monday.
Leaders from Idaho’s four community colleges, including CSI, visited the statehouse to present budget requests to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and update the Senate Education Committee on recent achievements and challenges.
One challenge in recent years, Fox and his fellow presidents told lawmakers, has been adapting their institutions to accommodate the growing body of dual credit enrollees: high school students taking classes for both college and high school credit. More than half of CSI’s 12,679 students are now in dual credit programs, but — because these classes cost less — they only account for roughly 4 percent of the school’s student revenue.
The growing popularity of dual credit classes is good news for Magic Valley high school students, Fox told legislators, particularly gifted students in small, rural districts with limited class offerings. But the program has also forced administrators to consider new questions related to revenue and campus infrastructure. And, as these high schoolers graduate to college, it could change the way colleges look at student retention.
“This will change the dynamics of community colleges, period,” College of Western Idaho President Bert Glandon told the Senate Education Committee.
At CSI, dual credit classes are taught in one of three ways: on the CSI campus, in the high school by a CSI professor, or in the high school by a trained high school teacher. This has lessened the need for full-time faculty on campus, Fox said. “We take advantage of some of the really good high school teachers we have,” Fox told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “Those are some of the ways we deal with changes in the demographics.”
But as the need for full-time faculty on campus decreases, the need for staff to overlook and work within the dual credit program has increased. The college now has roughly 15 staff members dedicated to the program, including counselors and advisers with offices inside the high schools.
“We increase the number of opportunities, we increase the infrastructure costs,” Fox said.
CSI has requested $14,337,300 from the state for fiscal year 2020 — less than the $14,540,200 recommended by Gov. Brad Little in his proposed budget. The Legislature appropriated $14,305,800 to the college in fiscal year 2018 and $14,464,000 in fiscal year 2019.
SUN VALLEY — A skier and snowboarder were able to free themselves after being caught in an avalanche they triggered Sunday on Bald Mountain, authorities said.
The avalanche in the Warm Springs Creek drainage was triggered by the two in the sidecountry or out of bounds terrain, the Sawtooth Avalanche Center said in a statement.
The two were carried 100 to 150 yards before being buried by the avalanche, the skier fully under the snow for about 25 minutes and the snowboarder with his head and torso beneath the snow, the center said.
Both were able to free themselves from the snow and neither was seriously injured.
“This was an extremely close call,” the center said in a statement. “These individuals are fortunate they were not seriously injured or killed. The terrain in this area is heavily treed, so most people caught in avalanches here sustain significant trauma. Picture riding a bike downhill at 30 miles per hour and jumping off into a forest — it usually doesn’t end well.”
The avalanche was at least 100 feet wide at about 8,000 feet in elevation.
The Sawtooth Avalanche Center says there is considerable dangerous avalanche conditions at upper and middle elevations as very weak snow struggles to beat the weight of snow from recent storms.