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Allen and Co. 2018

A security guard looks on as Don Graham, chairman of Graham Holdings Company, greets reporters at the annual Allen and Co. conference in Sun Valley Wednesday.

SUN VALLEY — Billionaires in jogging gear. Confused tourists. Well-dressed children herded through the town square by blue polo-clad employees.

To Sun Valley residents, this is just another year of Allen and Co.

The annual conference attracts some of the richest and most powerful people in the world — and, in turn, attracts media attention from top news organizations, earning headlines in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and others.

But despite the buzz surrounding the event in elite business circles, Allen and Co. is a notoriously covert affair.

So much so that Caleb, a Boise native spending the week in Sun Valley, was blissfully unaware of the high-stakes deals and schmoozing likely happening mere feet away from him as he strolled with his dog through the square.

“Huh,” he said with a shrug. “I didn’t know.”

That’s not to say there weren’t clues that big things might be happening out of sight. Large swaths of Sun Valley Resort were cordoned off for the event, protected by uniform “Private Function” signs and stone-faced security guards checking badges with gusto.

Neither the press nor the public were allowed in these areas. A gaggle of journalists from outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox Business stood behind a white plastic fence, shouting questions and greetings at the executives passing by; they were, for the most part, waved off with vague pleasantries.

But simply lingering in the town square produced plenty of people-watching. Spotify chief executive offer Daniel Ek walked briskly past the quaint Sun Valley storefronts in dark sunglasses. Gayle King, co-anchor of CBS This Morning and editor-at-large for O Magazine, stopped to take a photo with some young fans before moving on.

This year’s guest list included Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and General Motors chief executive officer Mary Barra. The conference, which kicked off Wednesday morning, continues into the weekend.

Outside the guarded gates, a man who introduced himself as Stephen said he was visiting Sun Valley from southern California with his wife. The couple was vaguely aware of the event when they arrived, he said. Earlier that day, he’d seen Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg walk by.

Other bystanders weren’t so lucky. Bob and Helen, a retired couple from Oregon passing through the area on a trip across the Mountain West, hadn’t come across anybody they recognized.

“I’ve been just standing here, saying, ‘Ooh, is that one? Is that one?’” Bob joked. “You kind of need a little picture book to say, ‘Oh, that’s so-and-so.’”

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