Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Celebrating Her 80th Sun Valley Style
Brighten Price Franz, who teaches a high intensity class at the Y, leads the exercise class.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021


It’s a given you don’t celebrate your 80th birthday in a rocking chair if you live in Sun Valley.

So how did Susan Blair decide to celebrate her 80th? She commandeered an exercise class at the Wood River Community YMCA and invited a dozen of her friends, a few of whom are also embarking on their ninth decade.

“I thought: What could I do that would be terrific for me? And I decided this is terrific for me,” said Blair.

Susan Blair, in the white, maintains a smile throughout the 45-minute exercise class.

It took a good 15 minutes for High Fitness instructor Brighten Price Franz to start up the class on the Y’s outdoor patio. After all, few of the women had seen one another since the pandemic began.

“I’ve not seen Amy in 17 months,” Blair said, hugging one friend.

Blair could recount exactly how she’d met each woman. One had been a longtime school chum of hers. Another took part in her book club. Still another had volunteered with her at St. Luke’s Wood River before the pandemic brought volunteer activities to a halt.

“It’s time to get our grooves back,” Blair summoned them. “I’m honored we’re going to celebrate our bodies and our fitness.”

Susan Blair, Mary Williams and Robin Leavitt laugh at one of the stories told on Susan.

Franz cranked the music up.

“I teach high intensity interval workouts, but we’re going to do high-low today. I want you to be safe. Do what you can do. Do what feels good to you. My goal is to have fun and celebrate Susan,” she said. “If you get hot, sit in the shade and you can watch Susan.”

Following Franz’s lead, the women began moving to the music, bringing one foot in to touch the other and pumping their hands in the air.

“Now to the right. Four more. Knees follow toes. Chest up,” Franz walked them through the moves.

Susan Blair, in the white, gets the middle spot since it’s her day of honor.

Some hopped off the ground like bunny rabbits. Others kicked their legs to the sides. Some lifted their feet a few inches high in a walking motion. But all kept moving in some way.

“Remember your Kegels, girls,” said Blair.

Midway through the routine, Franz played an uproarious birthday song.

 “Happy birthday, happy birthday to you,” the women sang along, shaking their heads like the mop-top Beatles from Liverpool.

The women keep up, even though a few admit to having gotten out of shape during the pandemic.

“Ahh, what a celebration,” said Robin Leavitt.

Marline Rennels agreed from the bench where she was doing her workout.

“I told Susan my back is sore but that I’d come if I could sit down,” she said. “And I think it’s wonderful.”

Blair’s parents were physical education teachers. But she never considered herself an athlete. As she describes it, her ankles caved in, making figure skating an impossibility. She lacked the stamina to run up and down a basketball course.

She was scared to ski down a mountain, and she plain didn’t do yoga.

“And here (in Sun Valley) everybody’s an athlete!” she said. “I loved being team captain, though. And then I found this exercise class three years ago…”

Franz said the two instantly connected.

“Just her vibrant personality—she’s a woman of sophistication and class. So dynamic. I aspire to be like Susan,” she added.

When the bouncing came to an end and the last note of the high-energy music had punctuated the air,  the women were rewarded with pasta salad, fruit salad and sandwiches from Perry’s. Blair munched on  four quarter-sized cupcakes one of the partygoers provided.

“I’d rather eat sweets,” she said.

No one argued with her. After all, it was her birthday. And, it seemed, a new lease on life.

“It’s getting back into full swing and life in the Wood River Valley,” said Blair. “Getting back…”


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