Hey, hey, welcome to the CDA! The name of this town is French for “Heart of the Awl”, but no one really seems to be in a consensus of what the phrase is supposed to mean. It’s French, by the way, because the first Europeans in this area of North America were largely French fur trappers.
Coeur D’Alene started out as an old mining town, but these days its main industry is tourism. According to the Wikipedia page, Barbara Walters referred to Coeur D’Alene as “a little slice of heaven.” Ick! Anyway, part of the tourism comes from the town’s proximity to a couple of ski resorts and other recreational sites, but it is also bolstered by being located between pristine Lake Coeur D’Alene and unarguably pretty mountain forests.
Once a town becomes known for its beautiful location and recreation options, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the entrepreneurs and corporations interested in tourist dollars start arriving. They bring things like large resort hotels, golf courses, and an ideal of a “Main Street” that is artificial and boutique-y. Coeur D’Alene definitely wound up with the resort hotel and the golf course (complete with a floating 14th hole), but it seems like they may have dodged the conversion of a Main Street to an open-aired mall.
While I was looking around for photos of Coeur D’Alene, I kept coming upon examples of a fad that seemed to sweep through the United States beginning around the turn of this century. Here in Coeur D’ALene, they called it “Moose on the Loose“:
The idea for these type of projects, to the best of my understanding, was that some community-minded group would purchase a specific number of the same plain fiberglass (I think) statue with the intention of having each one decorated by a different local artist or group of artists. The statues would then be put on public display around town for some period of time before being auctioned off in order to generate revenue for the same-said community-minded group. As I noted, this is some sort of weird civic fad that’s gone around America (and probably further), so it’s not just Coeur D’Alene doing this.
Spokane had a similar one with Snoopy figures at some point, so this is not the first town we’ve been through that has done something like this [Further searching indicates that I was mistaken, this is from San Rosa]. I think Boise, Idaho, did cows once, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, did pigs (I may be switching those two). The thing I wonder about this is: who’s behind this corny (but probably lucrative) scheme? Is there a fiberglass mold company with sales agents that travel around the country talking to City Councils and Kiwanis Clubs? If you know anything about the business of this stuff, can you let me know? Thanks.
Surprisingly, the “Moose on the Loose” project is not Coeur D’Alene’s only civically-minded series of moose statues; there is also the very local “Mudgy & Millie” series of five statues. These statues were created in conjunction with a children’s book, both of which focus on a moose who is looking for a mouse who is hiding nearby. I’m not a big fan of the aesthetic myself, but I find something very charming about the idea that a city has its own storybook and statue walk for children.
One serious downside of Coeur D’Alene is its association in people’s minds with white supremacy. This is a little unfair to Coeur D’Alene, because the entire Northwest of the United States is predominantly caucasian, and the whole region has long struggled with racism and skinheads. Coeur D’Alene, though, gets singled out because up until 2001, the neo-Nazi group, the Aryan Nations, maintained a compound just outside of Coeur D’Alene in a suburb called Hayden Lake. The group lost their compound in 2001 after losing a lawsuit against a woman and her son who were assaulted by drunk compound guards. The compound and surrounding area were eventually designated as a “peace park” owned by North Idaho College and all of the buildings were destroyed. The Aryan Nations no longer exists in the area, but it hasn’t completely eradicated the bigots or the stigma that Coeur D’Alene carries in this regard.
Coeur D’Alene’s got some other kind of weird stuff that I’m guessing we probably won’t see anywhere else on our trip. Take, for example, this poor, arrogant photographer that they dipped in bronze:
They also have what I imagine is the only fireplace shaped like the state of Idaho in the state of Idaho. (Idahoans: am I wrong on this?) This is at a place called, appropriately, the State Motel:
Actually, this next one probably occurs in a lot of places around this part of the United State and Canada. Little kids competitively riding sheep. This video kind of bothers me (these kids have to be under six to participate), but in the interest of immersing ourselves in different cultures, here you go:
And on that note, we’ll close our post with a couple of cool local signs:
I think Norge (Cleaners?) used to be some sort of regional chain, because I seem to remember seeing a sign like this in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Do you have anything to add about Coeur D’Alene? We want to hear all about it! The comments are open.