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Treefort 2017: Jungo the Gorilla Macro-Puppet and Refugees' Stories

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- Volunteers built "Jungo Blizzard" in a parking lot near El Korah Shrine on the first night of Treefort Music Fest. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Volunteers built "Jungo Blizzard" in a parking lot near El Korah Shrine on the first night of Treefort Music Fest.
Meet Jungo Blizzard: Treefort Music Fest's very own macro-puppet gorilla. Volunteers erected the enormous puppet on Wednesday evening in a parking lot beside El Korah Shrine.

The puppet's designer, Sam Johnson, said Jungo is based on a character from the video game Primal Rage, and represents "the dangerous road." Over the course of the festival, the puppet will make numerous appearances across downtown and "do sneaky sort of ambush stuff" at events.

Johnson was also a lead designer for macro-puppets of Treeforts past, including a giant spider and giant squid puppets. They often appeared at the Treefort Main Stage—notably in 2016, when he and other volunteers marched the hulking spider through the crowd to wage battle against Boise band Magic Sword.

Jungo, however, may not be able to perform such a feat this year: He's too tall to fit through the Main Stage gate.

"It'd be a downright miracle. You'd have to move mountains to do that," Johnson said.

- Patrick, a refugee from Congo, spoke at Storyfort Thursday afternoon. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Patrick, a refugee from Congo, spoke at Storyfort Thursday afternoon.
The next afternoon at Storyfort—located in The Owyhee—panelists convened to talk about something more serious: refugees' stories. The city of Boise has made efforts to be welcoming to new Americans, but the panelists said refugees still face challenges to being socially accepted.

"Today, refugees are viewed as threats to society," said Patrick, a refugee from Congo. "Here in the U.S., the most common word is "terrorist."

In part, Patrick said, refugees are seen as moochers on public services. Public conversations about the number of refugees and the cost of harboring them are distractions from the humanitarian crises they have fled and the significant contributions they make to the communities that accept them.

Zuzu, from Iraq, said her father and brother acted as translators for the U.S. Army and left the country when being a collaborator with the United States painted a target on her and her family's back. She described an encounter at WinCo in Boise in which a man who identified himself as a member of the armed services told her not to wear her head scarf because America is a "free country," and that if she refused to take off her scarf, she should "go home."

"If you tell me to go back to my country, I can't," she said. "This is my country right now."

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who moderated the panel, said the city has made efforts to improve the experiences of new Americans because they enrich Boise socially and economically.

"Whether you come from foreign lands—or even from California—we're happy you're here," he said.