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Party Gal Linda Vinagre Has Added to the Ketchum Fun
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Wednesday, August 4, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Linda Vinagre was about to turn 50 when she decided things were not as easy to remember as they had been.  

Rather than fret about it, she decided to address it like she addresses everything—she threw a party.

She invited 20 people over, issuing them all-important name tags and “Can’t Remember Sh*t” membership certificates. Then she handed out buttons that said “Forgets but not forgotten.”

She didn’t forget about that party the next year nor any since. She’s had parties for “those with memory issues” now for 27 years.

They have become legendary among those who can remember to show up—400 did so one year. People have come from as far away as Europe to enjoy the backyard potluck. And they’ve all come full of tall fish tales—after all, nobody there is expected to remember how it really happened.

“One year I set up a golf course in the backyard with a picture of a book or a movie at each hole, and they had to figure out what that picture was of,” Vinagre said. Then we had everybody put $3 in a pot for a Bingo card and some tricksters would get so excited they’d yell Bingo before they had it.”

Vinagre has been the life of many a party—most of which she has organized herself. And for that she was nominated for the 2021 Blaine County Heritage Court, which honors women for their contributions to the Wood River Valley. She is being feted along with Jane Drussel, JoAn Walker and Rosalie Kirkland.

“I love gathering people together,” said Vinagre. “People missed having our “Can’t Remember” party last year so I hope to have it this year.”

Vinagre grew up in Santa Monica when it was a sleepy little beach town boasting lots of volleyball players and few surfers. Apparently, it didn’t have enough parties to suit Vinagre because when a friend invited her to Sun Valley she accepted.

“I took a leave of absence for a vacation and a month later I called the college where I’d been working and said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m never coming back. I had fallen in love with the beauty of this place, the mountain, the skiing.”

Here, Vinagre worked at the Continental Inn and then at Louie’s—a job she adored even though she went home smelling like pizza. Today, she points out, she lives in her old boss Louie Mallane’s home in one of Ketchum’s older neighborhoods.

“He started out in the back of the Sawtooth Club before moving to the little white church. Long tables, family-style dinners of rigatoni, pizza, salad—it was affordable, good food.”

One day Gary Vinagre arrived on a motorcycle to take her on a picnic. They were married in 1970 and have been married 51 years.

“We had planned a trip to Italy to celebrate our Golden Anniversary but COVID intervened. We went through McDonald’s drive-through, instead,” she said, acting like it was great fun.

Ketchum was great fun in the days before it grew up, Vinagre said.

“Everybody would go to Slavey’s and dance. Ketchum Drug had 25-cent sundaes once a year--one guy would get trays of them to put in his freezer. We closed down the streets for a big Halloween Party. We had Wednesday night horse rides that would start at Sun Valley and go through town to the river for a BBQ. We had the Shamrock Relays on St. Patrick’s Day where we wore costumes and innertubed down Dollar Mountain. I fractured my tailbone one year and had to sit on a donut for six weeks.”

Everybody went to the Alpine Café for breakfast after the bars closed, Vinagre said. That’s where she went the first night she arrived.

“I remember someone hit someone on the head with a beer bottle and I thought: What am I doing here? But it turned out that wasn’t an everyday occurrence.”

“In the early days, Lester ‘the Arrester’ strolled the streets, but I don’t know of anybody he arrested. But eventually they got more policemen and began cracking down on drinking on the street.”

For years Vinagre taught clay sculpture, flower arranging and faux painting in the log cabin that later became Dr. Nancy Parry’s medical office. In time she found herself teaching children of the children.  Now she enjoys working on her art at the Boulder Mountain Clayworks.

When her daughter Shane was in school, Linda was active in the Papoose Club's Christmas bazaar and the Kindercup.  She remembers Ketchum "was a great place to raise a child."

She added to the magical atmosphere for children with the Christmas Eve parties she and Gary have hosted for the past 40 years. As many as a hundred adults and children have stopped by over the course of an evening to nibble from the buffet and see Santa, aka the late Jack Williams.

“He’d tell people the best Santa stories ever. And then he’d take kids out and point to the lights on Bald Mountain and say, ‘See those? Those are my reindeer getting ready for our ride.”

The Vinagres are fond of traveling. They’ve traveled through Chile, Paraguay, Singapore, Hong Kong and Argentina, where they visited the exchange student they hosted.

“I loved that country because the families get together for asadas. They don’t watch TV—they get out and socialize over BBQs, instead,” she said.

Vinagre also has a special fondness for Tanzania, which she and Gary visited on a safari.

“We were sleeping in a tent when all of a sudden a lion roared, scaring the heck out of me. Gary said, ‘Lift the tent flap and look out.’ But I was frozen. Finally, we peered out and it was a mama with two babies.”

At 81, Vinagre still skis, although she missed last year because of the pandemic. She took up golfing five years ago, and she has been an avid fly-fisherman since moving here.

“We’d go fishing at Decker Flats and we caught so many salmon. People would camp overnight to get a spot and you’d wake up in the morning and there’d be people on either side of you. I just love fishing. You don’t think about anything else. You just cast your line, relax and don’t worry about a thing.”

 She paused and looked around her living room, tastefully adorned with teapots she’s made and fish paintings.

“We celebrate all the time. Life is good. And we’re so lucky to live here, to be in this beautiful place. I love being here.”

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