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‘Big Hearts’ Serve as Wagon Days Marshals
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Paula and Keith Perry—and Dudley, too—rode in the parade as the 2022 Wagon Days grand marshals.
   
Sunday, September 4, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

When Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw invited Keith and Paula Perry to attend a Wagon Days reception as the parade’s 2022 grand marshals, Keith Perry told him he’d have to check with his boss.

“I’m waiting tables at the Knob Hill Inn now, and I’m the low man on the totem pole,” Keith Perry told the mayor.

Apparently, the boss gave Perry the night off because he and his family, including daughter Courtney and newborn grandson Colt who were visiting from Phoenix—showed up for the affair.

 
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Ketchum Mayor praises Keith and Paula Perry as dozens enjoy a free buffet of tacos served up by Despo’s.
 

Bradshaw noted that the Perrys had served the community with kindness, honesty and service over the 37 years they owned Perry’s Restaurant. They  retired at the end of month as others assumed ownership of their building.

“They met us with kindness and love, a safe and welcoming environment. Thank you for creating that,” Bradshaw said.

“And they had cookies!” he added as an afterthought.

Sun Valley Council member Jane Conard paid tribute to the Perrys, as well.

 
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Keith Perry said how blessed he and Paula feel that they still have their health to enjoy the many things Sun Valley has to offer.
 

“My husband is an early riser, and I’m not. He loves coffee and I do not. So, every morning he’d head to Perry’s at 6:30 and, even though they didn’t open until 7, Keith would let him in because the oatmeal and coffee were ready,” she said.

Mary Austin Crofts, former director of the Blaine County Recreation District, said the two words she’d use to summarize Keith and Paula were “big hearts.”

Crofts said she first met Paula when Paula would come into the radio station she temporarily worked at to create radio spots inviting Ketchum residents to check out the new restaurant she and Keith had opened on 4th Street.

Keith, she said, somehow found time to join the BCRD board in 1992 where he served 12 years helping to guide such projects as the building of the Wood River Trail bike path, the North Valley ski trails, the Harriman Trail, the saving of Galena Lodge. and the creation of the Community Campus, which now houses the College of Southern Idaho, and BCRD FitWorks.

 
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The family—Keith, Courtney, son-in-law Jake, 3-month-old Colt (in a Perry’s T-shirt), Paula and Dudley—relished the warmth they have felt from the community.
 

“We miss Perry’s but, oh gosh, we wish you well,” she told the couple.

Daughter Courtney recalled how her father made her work for the cellphone she wanted when she was in sixth grade.

“It was a good time,” she recalled. “We’d listen to ESPN and I’d pop cookies in the oven.”

Phil Doerflein recounted how Keith always answered his phone when Courtney would call while they were playing golf.

 
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What was billed as the very last of Perry’s famous cookies were passed out at the reception.
 

“Usually, she was looking for the chocolate chip cookie dough or something like that,” Doerflein said. “But the example he set of the value of family stuck with me.”

 

Though they had lived in Ketchum 37 years, the Perrys had never seen the Wagon Days Parade because they were always busy manning the restaurant, serving up Peruvian wraps and burgers to some of the 17,000 people estimated to crowd into K-Town each year for the event.

“I think it’s probably cool, funky, small-town, Western, historical,” said Paula the evening before the parade.

On Saturday they boarded a wagon at the head of the parade with daughter Courtney, son-in-law Jake, grandson Colt and Dudley the dachshund and rode just past Backwoods Mountain Sports. There they got off and walked back a few blocks so they could see the parade for themselves.

“It was a wonderful gift being able to serve three generations, having little kids come into the restaurant knowing their dad did the same thing 25 years earlier,” said Keith.

Keith Perry already has embarked on a new life of service with the Blaine County Housing Authority, having seen firsthand how hard it is to recruit employees with a shortage of affordable housing. Instead of rising at 4 in the morning so he could be out the door by 5, Keith is climbing Baldy to the gondola four times a week, reaching his goal in the enviable time of 49 minutes.

Paula is making her own pilgrimage to the gondola two or three times a week, making sure she gets some biking in in on the days she doesn’t hike.

The couple figure they will get a condo in Phoenix so they can visit with their daughter and grandson during spring and fall. But they plan to spend winters and summers here, indulging in cross-country skiing and the other things Sun Valley offers.

The one going through the greatest withdrawal has been Dudley the dachshund. Long the restaurant maître d’, he has been a bit befuddled that he no longer goes to work to see his friends every day.

“We’re going to have to start zig-zagging through town so he can see all his old friends,” said Paula. “We feel like we have one big extended family after serving people all these years and watching their kids grow up. I think half the community has worked for us at one time.”

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