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 Beckwourth Frontier Days Celebration

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Activities at Beckwourth Frontier Days

Yuba-Sutter's original living history festival has taken on an added dimension in its eighth year, with no fewer than 17 new attractions on tap for real-West family entertainment.

The Feather River Fiddle and Bluegrass Jamboree is the most prominent new addition to Beckwourth Frontier Days, which is proving every year that the most fun west of the Rockies is in California's Oldest Little City. An estimated 250 musicians are expected to participate in the competition.

Beckwourth Frontier Days celebrates the multi-cultural character of the California frontier in the name of a unique--and often overlooked--western hero, African-American Mountain Man and Crow Indian War Chief, Jim Beckwourth, who led the first wagon train into the burgeoning Gold Rush city of Marysville in 1851.

The Living History area returns to the festival with traditional Mountain Man, Native American and Wagon Train encampments and the free gold panning exhibit. The rest of tree-lined Beckwourth Riverfront Park will be filled with musical and historical entertainers, historical and cultural exhibits, a casino and saloon, children's entertainment, wagon rides, and--for the first time at Beckwourth Frontier Days--a Mariachi band.

"We're maintaining--and improving on--the popular living history portion of the festival," said Beckwourth Executive Director Paul DeMerrit. " At the same time, in other areas of the enormous grounds we are adding more musical and theatrical entertainment and bringing in scores of new historical characters."

Beckwourth Frontier Days and the Feather River Fiddle and Bluegrass Jamboree will be conducted Friday, October 2, Saturday, October 3, and Sunday, October 4 at Beckwourth Riverfront Park in Marysville. Admission for the Fiddle and Bluegrass Jamboree only on Friday (beginning at noon) is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children five and older. Admission on Saturday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is $7 for adults, $5 for children and seniors.

Several thousand free children's tickets will be delivered to Yuba-Sutter schools, courtesy of several of Beckwourth's major sponsors.

Fiddle & Bluegrass

An estimated 250 musicians are expected to participate in the Feather River Fiddle and Bluegrass Jamboree competition. Competition begins at Beckwourth Riverfront Park at noon on Friday. Special competition is set for Friday night in downtown Yuba City. Competition resumes at 8 a.m. Saturday, and a free street dance featuring dozens of musicians is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday night in downtown Marysville. The musicians will perform gospel music throughout the day on Sunday. They will be joined in the afternoon on Sunday by the choir of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Marysville, one of California's oldest churches.

The event is sanctioned by the California Old Time Fiddler's Association and the National Bluegrass Association. Bob Hedrick, president of the California Old Time Fiddler's Association, is coordinating the event

In addition to the sounds of fiddles, banjos, mandolins, guitars and other stringed instruments, the tree-lined park along the Feather River will be filled with the roar of gunfire and the thunk of tomahawks, the stomping of horse hoofs and the beat of native American drums. Food vendors will fill the air with the aroma of fine food.

More Costumed Characters

One of the original core groups of living history actors from the famed Renaissance Pleasure Fair will join Beckwourth Frontier Days this year, donning costumes to portray a score of early Californians, including the controversial John Sutter, railroad tycoons Stanford, Crocker and Huntington, the sultry European and California goldfields entertainer Lola Montez, the gentleman bandit Black Bart, and a variety of gold miners, miner's widows, undertakers, saloon girls and assorted gamblers and roustabouts.

Mountain Man James Pierson Beckwourth, always a striking presence, will be in attendance at the festival that bears his name. So will Marysville's first and only alcalde, Stephen J. Field, who instituted the whipping post in Marysville and carried a derringer and a bowie knife--perhaps even after he was named the first Supreme Court Justice from west of the Mississippi.

And who's the white haired guy with all the wise cracks? Is it? Could it be? Yes, Mark Twain will be making several appearances at Beckwourth Frontier Days. Twain wrote for several early California newspapers in the Marysville region and he'll be returning to Beckwourth Frontier Days to tell his story and the story of thousands of ill-fated gold miners.

Like the Pleasure Faire, visitors to Beckwourth Frontier Days are encouraged to don frontier era apparel and receive $1 off on gate admission.

"The participation of the visitors is important to us," DeMeritt said. "When we see festival visitors in costume it tells us that we are getting the message out about what this festival is all about."

Children's Events

A children's bubble garden, staffed by historic characters, has been added to the lineup, along with a giant swing. These are certain to be popular areas for children, who will also have an opportunity to pan for real gold, ride a buckboard wagon, enjoy the Old Time Children's Circus, make their own period toys, sing-along with the Medicine Man, participate in Native American dance, and catch a ride on the barge across the lagoon.

Added Delights

Four new gunfight teams from all points west will join the Faith Christian School players in performing high-volume, high-laugh melodrama. Bad Company of Nevada County, Legends of the American West of Tuolomne County, and Jack of Diamonds and his gang from Mendocino County will perform throughout the day.

Don't be surprised to catch some of the gunfight action in or near the saloon or the casino. This year, the Foothill Lions Club is providing new live action at Beckwourth Frontier Days in the form of old-time gambling fun.

Three new melodrama groups under the direction of Richard Morrissey of Yuba City High School will be joining Beckwourth Frontier Days for the first time, so there will be plenty of non-stop entertainment.

Also new this year will be the Barbary Coast Pirates, a group of nautical ne'r do wells from the bustling port of San Francisco who have wandered into Gold Country just in time to enjoy Beckwourth Frontier Days.

Chinese Camp

For the first time at Beckwourth Frontier Days, a replica of a Chinese gold mining camp will be established, and visitors can learn the real life stories of the Chinese who faced prejudice and repression at the hands of American gold seekers. At one point in California's history, Chinese miners paying the foreign miner's tax accounted for one-quarter of the entire California state treasury.

Mariachi Band

Also for the first time at Beckwourth Frontier Days, a mariachi band will perform both days during the festival, honoring the Hispanic culture. Most people don't realize that Sutter County is named after a Mexican citizen or that three years before James Marshall discovered gold along the American river, a Mexican by the name of Pablo Gutierrez discovered gold along the Bear River near Wheatland in Yuba County. The mariachi Band will be sponsored by Radio Z and an Hispanic culture exhibit is being prepared by the Alliance For Hispanic Advancement.

Law & Disorder

History buffs will enjoy the new Law & Disorder display, which will include a whipping post and details of early day vigilantism and how the first Marysville police unit was organized out of the proceeds of Marysville's gambling tables.

Old Favorites

An expanded wagon train area (headed up by veteran wagonmaster Bill Knorr) the Mountain Man encampment area, the Native American village and dancing area, the tomahawk throw competition, wagon rides, gold panning, and a variety of stage entertainers--including Hawks & Eagles and Sourdough Slim--will return for the eighth annual Beckwourth Days. Cowboy poetry, a petting zoo, the barge rides across the lagoon--all the fun you've come to expect at Beckwourth Frontier Days will be returning.

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