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‘Where’s a good place to eat?’

Eileen JoyceBerniece Selaya answers questions and calls as a volunteer at the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
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While thousands of revelers will jockey for a good spot to watch perhaps Nevada City’s biggest celebration of the year, Berniece Selaya will have arguably the best seat in the house when the 10th annual Joe Cain Procession rolls through town Sunday.

She’ll be at her desk inside the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce office at the confluence of Union, Main, Coyote and Commercial streets downtown, with a great view but far from the madding crowd.



Selaya is one of a handful of senior volunteers at the chamber office, fielding calls from around the globe about the burg she’s called home for 23 years.




“I haven’t seen the parade for a number of years,” Selaya, 80, said in between calls and inquiries Wednesday. “I’m just going to sit here when it arrives and not worry about the crowd outside.”

Selaya, who came to Nevada City from San Francisco, may be best known to locals as part-owner of now-defunct Selaya Restaurant and Diggins on Broad Street for 15 years.

Selaya says that her work at the chamber is about as stressful as she likes it these days.

“This is good for my ego,” she said, looking out onto the city’s historical district on Broad Street. “I enjoy telling people the way it was.”

“You know, I decided I had to do something” after her second husband died, she said.

So, for the past four years on Wednesdays, Selaya is one of the de facto voices of Nevada City for tourists and those looking for a place to buy an antique clock or a peaceful place for lunch. (She’ll work an extra day Sunday.)

Chamber Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey said Selaya and other senior volunteers provide an invaluable resource for the public.

“They’re a very dedicated group,” she said.

Selaya admits she’s excited about the procession. She spent part of Wednesday making signs directing motorists to parking spaces and answering queries as to where people could find Mardi Gras beads for their costumes.

“There was a time when we sold them, but people just kept stealing them,” she said.

Asked if she was going to dress up, Selaya laughed and paused a long time.

“I probably will not,” she said, then paused to change her mind. “I have a black two-piece outfit I could wear, but I’m not sure.”

And yet, Joe Cain isn’t her favorite Nevada City event.

“I really enjoy Constitution Day,” she said. “That really shows this town’s spirit.”


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