To celebrate the 2012 launch of Read Me Treasure Valley—the community-wide reading program—Boise Mayor Dave Bieter met with the hero of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Swathed in a life jacket, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey addressed the crowd.
"I'm conflating Finn and Sawyer," said Popkey, realizing the life jacket didn't fit the story. "To me, they're one book. I think river safety is always important. Always wear your life jacket."
The program started in 2001, and while formally funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Idaho Humanities Council stepped in with a grant when that money dried up, and partnered with the Boise Public Library, Boise State University's Story Initiative, the Idaho Statesman and the Cabin.
A youth embodying Tom Sawyer, clothed in overalls and a straw hat, ambled from his spot on the banks of the Boise River to the nearby fence, where a bucket of whitewash and brush awaited. However, Bieter couldn't be tricked into whitewashing the fence for Sawyer.
"I'm going to have to apologize for not painting," said Bieter, declining to grab the brush, or sing Rush. "But I'm known in my family as the human drop cloth; if I come anywhere near paint, it'll be on me."
The Read Me program seeks to engage Treasure Valley youth in reading by picking a single book for everyone to read at once. From Feb. 1 through Thursday, March 15, a full calendar of events complimenting the book will take place at venues around the Treasure Valley. Last year's book was Jack London's The Call of the Wild, and drew more than 1,000 participants.