Submitted by Courtney Ferguson
“A picnic, a tradition – and tons of fun since 1895, that’s how many describe the popular Miners Picnic,” said Event Chair Steve Sanchez. “Hosted by Empire Mine Park Association, everyone is invited to come and celebrate our colorful history of gold, grit and glory.”
For well over a century, the Miners Picnic has been a popular tradition. In the early days, it was held to raise money for miners’ widows and orphans – as well as injured and out-of-work miners. “Today,” Sanchez explained, “it’s a chance to relive the glory days when Empire Mine ranked as one of North America’s largest, oldest and most prosperous hard-rock gold mines. In recent years, we’ve welcomed over 1,500 visitors. Some come for the chance to picnic on the magnificent grounds; while others come for the live music. Many come to experience what life in a gold mine was like all those years ago.”
Visitors are encouraged to arrive before noon and make their way to the mine yard so they can witness the exciting mine-rescue reenactment. It’s fun to cheer the rescue vehicles on while they rush to save the injured miners. The louder the cheers, the better their chances are. Nearby, the Stamp Mill Stompers will perform 1920s’ Dixieland jazz, the music of the day. The mine yard area will also feature an array of adorable donkeys; some ready to go prospecting (while they steal hearts). Live music from Fire in the Kitchen will be another mine yard highlight. A visit to the busy Blacksmith Shop is also highly recommended. With forges blazing and hammers clanging, the friendly “smiths” always have fascinating, old-time tales to tell.
Visitors often bring their own blankets, chairs and lunches, and picnic on the magnificent grounds near the Miners Picnic stage. Plenty of food, drinks and ice cream will be available for purchase near the Clubhouse, including traditional Cornish pasties – a favorite with the miners. The lively Buffalo Gals, an in-demand local band, will perform old-time tunes, some dating back to the late 1800s. (Perhaps these same tunes were played at the very first Miners Picnic.)
Other activities include panning for gold, an old-fashioned cake walk, games and non-stop fun for all ages. There will be a silent auction, plus a prize draw with valuable gold jewelry to be won. Magicians and balloon sculptors will keep visitors thoroughly entertained, especially the children, while an impressive variety of classic cars will enhance the event’s vintage appeal.
Empire Cottage, designed by famous architect Willis Polk in the late 1800s, will be open to the public, with docents in lavish early 1900s’ costumes portraying members of the Bourn dynasty, as well as other colorful characters who shaped Northern California’s heady history. To close the day’s entertainment, singer/guitarist Kelly Fleming will play just outside the Cottage – the perfect way to relax in the shady gardens, and reflect on a memorable day. For most, a visit to the Gift Shop is a must. Besides an unusual assortment of books and geological mementoes, an impressive selection of heritage roses will be available for purchase.
“There truly is something for everyone to enjoy, including a new attraction,” Sanchez added. “We recently refurbished the two-stamp stamp mill, and now that it’s operational, it’s become a powerful draw. With so much to enjoy, I highly recommend that people plan on spending the day.”
Miners Picnic will be held at Empire Mine State Historic Park, Grass Valley on Saturday, August 27th. For further information, either phone the Visitors Center (530) 273-8522 or visit www.empiremine.org.