Festival to send children back in time | TheUnion.com

Festival to send children back in time

Children will be enchanted, amazed, challenged and delighted at all that happens Friday at Pioneer Park in Nevada City during The Children’s Festival. There’s much to do, see and experience with more than 20 arts and crafts tables, strolling minstrels, a juggler, a fortune teller, face-painters, a bridge-guarding troll, medieval fencing, catapults, a parade and Claude, the life-sized mechanical dragon.

According to Nevada City resident Gayle Martin, who has headed up the festival for the past six years, over 2,000 children of all ages attended the festival last year. “We see some amazing creativity. Children as young as three decorate their own costumes, make jewel-bedecked swords and crowns, decorate hand-sewn puppets and magic wands, and saturate a cardboard castle-maze with brightly colored paint. They also enjoy the music, parade and other entertainment. We like to think of it as a time for families and friends to come together in a non-commercial setting, where imagination, not technology, rules the day.”

It’s wonderful, say festival organizers, to see children, and families, returning year after year.

While most pint-sized artists try to visit each and every one of the 20 craft tables and leave in full costume with a bulging bag of their creations, as they grow older they sometimes stick to a project or two – just like the boy who spent the entire morning session at the soapstone table carving a sculpture, took it home to work on during the break, and then returned to finish his masterpiece during the evening session.

Several of the craft and activity tables are manned by husband and wife teams or by two or three generations of family members who work together year after year and many of them have their own Renaissance costumes in an effort to make the event more authentic. A few years ago, local artist Todd Andrews arrived at the Festival as a very convincing troll and has become a festival mainstay.

Parent appreciation, says Martin, shows in many ways, including such comments as “This is awesome!” or “The volunteers ROCK!”

The festival was founded in 1971 by Pat Cobler and Ilse Barnhart. After functioning for 19 years it took a hiatus and was revived in 2003 as a memorial tribute to Barnhart. Since then this all volunteer (200 of them) event that is supported by local businesses and Nevada City Rotary Club and has given the children a chance to enjoy a time of low-tech fun. Interestingly, the Children’s Festival has taken in enough from its modest fees to have been able to donate money the last three years to repair and paint the picnic tables in Pioneer Park, purchase a new water fountain for Pioneer Park and made a donation to the Imaginarium.

Two sessions are scheduled: morning and late afternoon. Some families choose to do both; each session costs $3 per person. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from the Soroptimists of the Sierra Foothills.


WHAT: The Children’s Festival

WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon and 5-8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Pioneer Park, Nevada City (from the Golden State Expressway going towards Nevada City from Grass Valley, take the Broad Street off ramp

and follow the signs to the park)

ADMISSION: $3 per person for each session

INFORMATION: Call Gayle Martin at (530) 265-2165 or go online at


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User