Best Little Gold Rush Festival in California |

Best Little Gold Rush Festival in California

Pioneer Day in Smartsville, the “Best Little Gold Rush Festival in California,” has a historical theme. We have tours of the mining areas, impersonations of historic characters and we are restoring the 1871 former Catholic Church. But Pioneer Day is a family-friendly event, so what is there for the kids to do?
Tours of the mining areas are attractive because visitors are transported to the mining areas on “hay” wagons pulled by antique tractors. Children are not usually amused by discussions of hydraulic mining, so we provide a way where the small ones, supervised by adults, can get a free ride on our parking shuttle, where visitors ride in a similar wagon pulled by an antique tractor.
At the Smartsville Community Church, where games are hosted, kids can hunt for gold nuggets (painted rocks), patterned after an Easter egg hunt. “Nuggets” can be exchanged at the assay office for prizes.
Two of our bands on stage provide an opportunity for kids to come to the stage and play rhythm instruments along with the band — a good photo op.
Carolyn Jones-Rodgers from Nevada City demonstrates how acorns were processed by Native Americans. She shows how acorns were leached, ground into flour and then baked — in her example, as cookies. Interested kids can participate in the grinding.
Present-day gold miners bring sand, a little gold and a water tub, and interested kids with gold pans can learn how to discover how much gold the sand contains.
A costume contest is open to all ages. Sometimes whole families come to Pioneer Day dressed in period attire, and sometimes the kids win. In addition, we have art contests where kids color or paint an outline of a gold rush theme. The results are judged and prizes are awarded.
This is the Chinese Year of the Dog. Kids can make dog masks with our local expert Sue Cejner-Moyers. Masks will be judged and the winner will receive a prize.
This year we will have a small petting zoo. Also, Ray-Ray the Clown (pictured) from Penn Valley will wander around the Pioneer Day area making monster-sized soap bubbles and he will also bring some balloons to make into funny objects.
So, bring the kids (or grandkids) and have fun at our 11th annual Pioneer Day.
For more information, visit or call Kit Burton at (530) 701-2639 or Kathy Smith at (916) 838-2757.

—Kit Burton

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