Old gold & new fun: Celebrating the 123rd Miners Picnic at Empire Mine State Historic Park | TheUnion.com

Old gold & new fun: Celebrating the 123rd Miners Picnic at Empire Mine State Historic Park

Courtney Ferguson
Submitted to Prospector
The Empire Cottage, the old Clubhouse, the Blacksmith Shop and Gift Shop will be open, and folks dressed in period clothes all add to the history of the 123rd Miners Picnic.
Photo by Richard Bannister


WHAT: 123rd Miners Picnic

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

WHERE: Empire Mine State Historic Park, 10791 E. Empire St., Grass Valley

COST: $7 ages 17 & over, $3 ages 6-16, free admission for children under 6 and free parking

INFO: Call 530-273-8522 or visit http://www.empiremine.org

The first Miners Picnic was held on June 5, 1895. Hosted by the Mine Workers Protective League, the event helped raise money for miners’ widows and orphans, as well as injured and out-of-work miners. It was such a significant event in those early years, local businesses and mines closed for the day so everyone could attend.

Today the event is hosted by Empire Mine Park Association to celebrate local gold-mine history.

“Okay, maybe businesses don’t close today,” event chair Steve Sanchez said, “but for many local and out-of-town visitors, the Miners Picnic remains one of Nevada County’s annual highlights. Each year we try to keep its old-time character, while we find new ways to make it special, fresh and fun.”

New for 2018 will be a beer garden near the Clubhouse.

“We’ve not had this for a number of years,” Sanchez added, “but on a warm August afternoon, what’s more refreshing than a cold beer in a shady garden?”

Besides beer, visitors may purchase food, snacks and treats from local vendors, including Lazy Dog Ice Cream and Cornish pasties (a favorite miners’ lunch). The Miners Picnic is one of the few times a year the public may also bring their own food, blankets and chairs, and picnic on the stately grounds inside the Park.

A nail-biting mine rescue reenactment is scheduled for noon in the Mine Yard, and everyone’s encouraged to cheer on the old-time rescue vehicles racing to save the injured miners.

World-renowned Izzi Tooinsky is scheduled to perform his juggling-and-history show on the Clubhouse stage at 1:15 p.m., followed by local band Midnight Acoustic who will be making their debut appearance at the mine.

“There’s an impressive array of entertainment throughout the park,” Sanchez said, “including magic, Dixieland jazz, a barber shop quartet and more. We even have a group of donkeys and their mini-horse friend all dressed up to go prospecting. They’re a big hit with everyone, especially the children.

“There’s also the traditional cakewalk, plus special children’s activities, a lively sing-along, raffle prizes and a silent auction with a tempting assortment of items that range from a Tofanelli’s restaurant gift certificate to a ride to school on a fire truck.”

To add to the history, Empire Cottage, the old Clubhouse, the Blacksmith Shop and Gift Shop are scheduled to be open. Visitors will also appreciate the vintage cars on display.

“It’s an action-packed day,” Sanchez said, “and it’s best to arrive early, as visitors won’t want to miss a thing.”

The 123rd Miners Picnic takes place at Empire Mine State Historic Park on Saturday, with special activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Parking’s free. Children under 6 are admitted free — and everyone’s invited, including well-behaved dogs on leashes. Call 530-273-8522 or visit http://www.empiremine.org for further details.

Courtney Ferguson is Empire Mine Park Association’s Outreach Coordinator, as well as a freelance writer.

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