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Join the fun on Saturday and toss a pasty

Grass Valley is glorifying the history of the Cornish and the impact they’ve had on the city by having its second annual St. Piran’s Day Saturday. The food made famous by the Cornish – the pasty – will be tossed (in the Pasty Olympics) and eaten at a special lunch.

The day is dedicated to the memory of Mayor Terry Hocking of Bodmin, Cornwall (sister city to Grass Valley), who died in October. It starts at 9:30 a.m. with a children’s bicycle parade and ends with an evening concert.

The parade will be followed by a flag-raising ceremony, a declaration by the Town Crier and the second annual Pasty Olympics and Gold Pan Follies. The day continues with a pasty luncheon at noon at the Grass Valley Methodist Church, featuring Professor Ralph Mann of the University of Colorado. The event will commemorate the 25th anniversary of Mann’s influential book, “After the Gold Rush,” a history of Nevada County in the industrial age. Mann, who was recently named outstanding teacher at the university in Boulder, will talk about the era when Cornish miners became prominent in Grass Valley. The evening concert at the Grass Valley Veterans Hall features Canadian Songwriter Heather Dale, who has Cornish roots, and the Male Voice Choir, directed by Eleanor Kenitzer.



In anticipation of St. Piran’s Day, the Holbrooke Hotel will offer Cornish pub food and singing on Friday night. Pasties and other pub food will be available from 6:30 p.m. Every one is invited to sing along with the Grass Valley Male Voice Choir starting at 7:30 p.m.

People come from far and near to attend. Take Tommi O’Hagan, editor of the North American Cornish newsletter, for example. She and her husband Bob are coming from Wisconsin. Who knows, there may not be visitors from across the pond, as well.




All is free but the lunch and concert.

St. Piran is the most popular of Cornwall’s patron saints and the patron of Cornish miners.

In fact, he was a fifth century Christian missionary who was educated at a monastery in Wales and established a monastery in Ireland. In Cornwall he founded churches, especially on the north coast. He was also active in Brittany.

In legend, St. Piran was captured by the heathen Irish, who tied him to a millstone and rolled it over a cliff into a stormy sea. Immediately, the sea calmed and the millstone floated like a cork, taking the saint across the Celtic Sea to a sandy beach of Cornwall.

The place he landed became known as Perran Beach, and he built a small oratory nearby at Perranzabuloe (meaning St. Piran-in-the-sands). From there he preached and taught the Cornish.

By teaching them to refine tin, he became the patron of tinners and miners. The Cornish flag, known as St. Piran’s flag, represent the white tin against the black ore. It also represents purity in a sinful world.

Legends abound of how St. Piran defended the common people of Cornwall. He was known for wiliness. In overcoming oppressing giants or threatening invaders, he would beguile and outwit his adversaries without actually harming them.

St. Piran is to Cornwall what St. Patrick is to Ireland. Before the Reformation, St. Piran’s Day in Cornwall was widely celebrated with feasts and drinking. The Cornish expression “drunk as a Perraner” referred to the miners who celebrated their saint’s day with abandon.

St. Piran’s Day is celebrated in Cornwall every year with a march to the site of the saint’s oratory in the sands. Sometimes the saints life is re-enacted, millstone and all, in a play performed on the dunes.

Around the world Cornish societies from Minnesota to South Australia celebrate St. Piran’s Day with a pasty lunch. It’s the most important day of the year for flying the Cornish flag.

This March 11 Grass Valley will host its second annual St. Piran’s Day celebration.


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