One day before independence day the New York Times posted an interesting article about Sandpoint. This paper has long been the United States’ most prominent source for news. Sandpointers are talking about the article in the street, myself included.
It seems that outsiders have a certain solid perception of North Idaho to be a white-supremacist, intolerant ‘wild west’ part of the country. And there is truth in that, but the fact alone that 70% of locals were not born here, implies a more sophisticated story. Travelers like myself have come through Sandpoint and were swept away by its beauty, kindness, rich art & culture and open mindedness. That was the reason I decided to move here one year ago. Mexicans, blacks, Amish, liberals, T-party fanatics and Muslims all seem to be grooving together just fine. I often hear Spanish being spoken at the gym and people connect based on personality and not so much political orientation or religious views. People who have seen much of the world are compelled to settle here.
This is not the same Idaho as Boise of potato farmers and Mormons.
Even when the NYT reporter looks for a valid reason why so many people want to live here, he seems short of understanding. He implies the ‘out west’ mentality makes settlers feel compelled to stay purely out of traditional mandate. In the 100+ comments the article has already received a fascinating struggle is developing between residents and those outsiders whose prejudice is based on old reports of the Aryan Nation setting up shop in this region and a few notorious bad cops retiring here.
The city of Sandpoint fought these extremists into bankruptcy though the late nineties and in 2011 Sandpoint became the first city in Idaho to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
These folks couldn’t be more wrong. The downtown area is bustling with art galleries, boutique shops, yoga studios and fashionable eateries. There is a wine maker in town as well as several creative beer breweries. Seasons are interlaced by countless activities, bounding inhabitants and visitors alike to form a genuine sense of belonging. Sure enough there is a trailer park, you’ll see the occasional confederate flag, there are issues with meth addiction and the unemployment rate is higher than average, but the difference with all other towns is that all layers of society mix happily and are melting into an intimate community.
Sandpoint is much different from what Kirk Johnson wrote for the New York Times on July 3, 2015 and we extend an invitation to him to spend a little more time here to understand the complex and positive community this truly is.