Event at the Old Penitentiary explores the romantic history of the site

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By: Amelia Albanese

This Valentine’s Day, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is looking to offer the community an untraditional event. The “Romancing the Pen” event will include stories about inmates and their relationships, games and self-guided tours. It will take place from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 14, at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in East Boise.

Viisitors will get a chance read “Love Stories from the Penitentiary,” and play games like “Match-In’ Mates,” “Honey Bee Heist” and “Pin the Rose on the Gardener.” There will also be refreshments available for the attendees, with “fireside chats with experts,” and “find the true meaning of ball and chain.”

Jacey Brain, visitors director and event coordinator at the Penitentiary explained the event was about bringing the lives of the couples in the former prison to the community in new and interesting ways. Furthermore, he wanted touch on the relationship aspect of the inmates.

“(Old Idaho Penitentiary) created this Valentine’s Day event to divulge some of its history—its romantic history,” Brain said.

Brain also mentioned that the game, “Honey Bee Heist,” was modeled after an inmate who escaped. According to Brain, Charles Emerson, the beekeeper, said the bees escaped and he convinced the guards to let him go after them. The game will be a bean bag toss with this story as the vision behind it.

Romancing the Pen will include more stories similar to this one regarding the Old Idaho Penitentiary. For instance, a volunteer for this event, Jennifer Finke, ruminated on her experience. Finke said Romancing the Pen is just one of the many events she volunteers for, and has discussed the history of other prisoners in previous events. One of the prisoners she had talked about in year’s past was Josie Kensler, who was imprisoned in 1897 at the age of 25 for second-degree murder.

Additionally, senior history major Emily Fritchman, said she and her boyfriend are planning to attend the event.

“Not only have I interned for the Pen, but I’m also a student who loves local and city history,” Fritchman said. “It’s a quirky place with lots of rich stories.”

Romancing the Pen is a first-come-first-serve and kid-friendly event. More information about tickets can be found on their Facebook event page.


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