Nevada County’s French Connection: French Festival set for today at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park | TheUnion.com

Nevada County’s French Connection: French Festival set for today at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Submitted to The Union

Have you ever wondered about the abundance of French place names in the local geography (French Corral, French Camp, French Gulch, French Meadow)? Did you ever wonder why "Malakoff," a very Russian-sounding name, was attached to the gold mine at North Bloomfield? The answers to these questions can be found by heading over to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

Today, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friends of North Bloomfield & Malakoff Diggins and California State Parks will host a special day of French-themed family fun to celebrate the French heritage of the park.

Diplomat to attend

Emmanuel LeBrun-Damiens, the Consul General of France headquartered in San Francisco, has confirmed that he will attend, showing his deep interest in French culture and innovations.

LeBrun-Damiens attended last year's inaugural French Connection event and was unabashedly charmed by the setting, the environment, and the people who came from near and far to celebrate French culture in our rural county.

Full day of activities

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The day will be a festive, lively gathering open to the public with French-themed music performed by Nevada County's beloved Beaucoup Chapeaux. They will present selections from their French repertoire, spanning a whopping 400 years of songs and tunes.

French-themed food and drink, petanque (a French version of bocce ball), historic building tours, gold panning and blacksmith demonstrations, a French-centric guided tour of the town site at 11:30 a.m., a marionette play at 2 p.m. and a raffle will round out the day's activities.

Festival inspired by recent research

"I'm just so excited about reconnecting this history with the French community," said Mark Selverston, lead author on a 2016 report documenting the role of the French at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. "We had no idea what we would find as we researched the early developments at the park.

"We have pieced together an amazing compilation of maps, records, and mining-related innovations associated with the early gold seekers, who just happened to largely be of French and French Canadian heritage."

Malakoff and the neighboring towns of North Bloomfield and Lake City persisted as dense communities where French culture dominated.

As the Nevada Daily Transcript noted in 1866, "these claims are owned mostly by Frenchmen, and some forty are employed on the works. The hotel is filled with boarders and French appears to be the ruling language."

Marionette play explains all

The original marionette show entitled "How Malakoff Got its Name" will be presented by the Theatre of Awe at 2 p.m., performed on a grand stage specially constructed for this event, and featuring historic characters meticulously fabricated by Theatre of Awe artistic director and founder, Laura Jane Coats.

Raffle proceeds to support efforts at the park

A raffle will be held at the event, featuring Malakoff-related prizes, and a grand prize of a week's lodging for two in Vence on the French Riviera, donated by Claudine Chalmers, noted local author and academic, dedicated to French historic research.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is located 26 miles northeast of Nevada City, nestled in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

The park consists of roughly 3,200 acres of forested hills, lakes, dramatic cliffs and historic buildings.

A visit to Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is a visit to the past, and it's easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of early settlers in this magical off-the-grid park. The Park was created in 1965 in order to preserve an important part of California's gold mining history.

Today the Park is often characterized as a place of peace, quiet and solitude; an ironically drastic shift from the destruction and devastation that once prevailed in this quiet corner of Nevada County.

For more information on Malakoff's French Connection event, visit the Friends of North Bloomfield & Malakoff Diggins website at http://malakoffdigginsstatepark.org/.

Source: Friends of North Bloomfield & Malakoff Diggins

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Malakoff’s French Connection Festival

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, 23579 North Bloomfield Road, Nevada City

COST: $5 Day-use fee. Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the event

INFO: Visit http://malakoffdigginsstatepark.org/ for more information