MONTPELIER, Idaho – On Saturday, April 25, one woman’s Facebook post caused a two-hour traffic jam on the main drag of a small southeast Idaho town. The traffic jam, believe it or not, lifted spirits of residents from the darkness they had been feeling from the COVID-19 blues and from a recent string of youth suicides. And they plan to hold the event again this Saturday.
Things in Bear Lake Valley have been gloomy of late. A string of deaths, a stay-at-home order and an overload of the world pandemic all contributed to the mood. The despair around Montpelier was almost tangible for Liz Roberts, one of its residents.
“I would walk into the grocery store and everyone was wearing masks. You can’t see people’s faces or their expressions,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to be happy and healthy with masks and the whole social isolation thing.”
She said there was a string of deaths of young people, some as young as 15 years-old. Five deaths were suicides and two more have been under investigation since April 5.
“We need to see each other without masks and show support for families who have lost loved ones,” she said. “I used to drag main when I was younger and I thought something like that could help.”
Dragging main meant driving up and down the main street seeing friends in other cars, radio on, honking, waving over and over again.
Roberts said the event was meant to lift the depression and give people something fun, and safe, to do during the COVID-19 social distancing. Most importantly, it was meant to show support for the grieving families.
She got the word out using Facebook. The local radio station, KVSI-The Wave, saw her post and Deejay, Lisa Hillier, contacted Roberts. They spread the “drag main” idea over the airwaves.
“We started to promote it on the radio,” she said. “We interviewed Roberts on the air and took listener’s requests for music.”
The station put together a special play list created from requests.
“The response was overwhelming, the list of music was from as early ’50s to current music,” she said. “That tells you what ages were involved. It was a lot of fun.”
Cruising started about 7:30 p.m. and went until 9:45 p.m. and some stayed later.
Several businesses took part. “Bear Lake Strong” rally was posted on the marquee of the Centre Theatre in downtown Montpelier who also provided popcorn. Other businesses contributed as well.
The event was a big hit. More than 400 cars were bumper-to-bumper up and down Washington Street.
The line of cars passed the Bear Lake Memorial Hospital Thrift Shop, the Tabernacle, Bear Lake Drug, Butch Cassidy Museum, Ice Cream and pop shops under the over pass and back again. They turned right on to Hwy 30 at the Maverik convenience store and started over.
It was so successful, residents wanted to try it again this Saturday May 2, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. This time KSVI’s Lisa and her husband Jared Hillier will set up Linda’s Lunch Box for a live broadcast. The Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office enjoyed the event last Saturday, but offered some suggestions about vehicle safety for this Saturday’s event.
“The last thing we need is an injury on Montpelier’s streets,” the sheriff’s message said on Facebook. “We ask that the participants police themselves and drive responsibly to include no burn-outs, racing or passengers sitting on sides of vehicles. Seat belts should be worn and we ask that occupants at least ride in areas for passengers; not on doors, windows or truck bed sides or tailgates.
“If riders in trucks would sit on the bed floor it would be much safer. Vehicles must be insured and of course, never drink alcohol and drive. Thanks for being a great community and we’ll see you Saturday night!”
This go around there will be a trailer where people can donate canned goods or other groceries for the local food bank, which has been hit hard with people needing food.