History, spooky ghost stories and more in store at Bridgeport Fall Festival | TheUnion.com

History, spooky ghost stories and more in store at Bridgeport Fall Festival

The South Yuba River Parks Association will host its annual Bridgeport Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Submitted by John Field |

As if cooler days and fall color aren’t enough reason to visit the South Yuba River this time of year, volunteers from South Yuba River Parks Association are planning a whole lot more.

A day of hayrides, gold panning and even a funeral procession to the historic Kneebone Cemetery are in the works as part of the Bridgeport Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at South Yuba River State Park.

“It’s one of the few events of the year where we go out of our way to invite the public to come out to Bridgeport to see the various activities that go on down there,” said Robert Coats, co-chair of the Fall Fest and a South Yuba River Parks Association board member.

Coats became involved with Bridgeport as a docent in 2010 and works as a docent at the park as a trail rover.

Throughout the day, docents like Coats will give history tours inside the restored barn housing a collection of old wagons and the neighboring service station. Every year the Fall Festival attracts 450 to 600 people to the park.

At 1 p.m., park association volunteers, State Parks and the Native Sons of the Golden West will unveil a new plaque commemorating the recent expansion of Bridgeport’s historic designation to include the barn and gas station.

This year, California is celebrating the 150th anniversary of state parks. Going back even further, Bridgeport covered bridge was built 152 years ago in 1862.

A stabilization project is now underway to secure the bridge in time for winter storms. Deemed unsafe and closed to public crossing for several years, Governor Jerry Brown approved funding for the $1.5 million repair and restoration of the bridge earlier this year.

South Yuba River Parks Association volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about this highly visible project.

Members of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe will have a table providing information about the local Nisenan Tribe.

“We are participating again this year to remind our community that the Nisenan people, the Indian families that were here long before the Gold Rush, are still here. Most people don’t know that there was once a Federally Recognized Indian Reservation in Nevada County, the Nevada City Rancheria, and that its Nisenan descendants are continuing to inhabit their ancestral lands. We look forward to sharing some of our culture and history at our booth,” said Shelly Covert.

Festival-goers will have the opportunity to get an up close look at rescued raptors from Wildlife Rehab and Release. Besides gold panning, children will have a number of games, face painting and arts and crafts activities to choose from.

For those who want some spooky Halloween time fun, actor Mark Lyon, known for his Haunted Nevada City walking tours, will lead the dramatic Ghost of Bridgeport reenactment of Yankee Jim’s funeral procession.

“Ghosts of historical characters buried in the family cemetery at Bridgeport interrupt and attempt to stop a funeral procession for ‘Yankee Jim,’ a man who was hung as a horse thief back from the original bridge at Bridgeport in 1852. This in an interactive piece in which children attending the festival will have the chance to carry the mock coffin. The ‘ghosts’ are funny rather than scary and it is an entertainment suitable for all ages,” said Lyon.

Yankee Jim was hanged after being accused of stealing horses and convicted by a jury of local men in 1852. Other ghosts of Bridgeport’s history will make an appearance during the procession.

“In that context, it’s a little history lesson,” said Coats.

To add to the festive atmosphere, musicians from Rush Creek will perform bluegrass and folk tunes and community vendors such as the Penn Valley Chamber of Commerce, June’s Deli and Culture Shock Yogurt will provide food for the event.

“Basically, it’s a day to enjoy Bridgeport and enjoy the river,” said Coats.

To learn more, visit http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org/index.html.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067.

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