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Basque Festival season has begun in the US, with the 2009 NABO Convention scheduled for Reno in July


Poster of Bakersfield's Basque Festival, designed by local Basque artist Pierre Igoa
Poster of Bakersfield's Basque Festival, designed by local Basque artist Pierre Igoa


This weekend it is Bakersfield’s turn, and the one before that was Los Banos’s and before that it was Fresno’s turn to hold an annual Basque picnic. As each year, the month of May begins the Basque festival season in the US that spans the west, lasting until October with festivals in Las Vegas, Nevada and Rocklin, California. The main celebration will take place July 24-26 in Reno with the celebration of the NABO convention and festival, details of which are forthcoming in another article. Following, a summary of the 2009 festival calendar in the US.

Bakersfield, California.The month of May marks the beginning of the Basque festival season in the US that lasts until the month of October ending with festivals in Las Vegas, Nevada and Rocklin, California.  This year, as always, the first get together was held in Fresno, California with its Basque Festival & Picnic.  Last weekend Los Banos, California celebrated its 46th annual Basque picnic that began with mass celebrated by Father Jose Javier Idoyaga.

Faithfully following Basque tradition in the west, the event took place at the fair grounds in Los Banos, and attendees were treated to a BBQ featuring lamb served by club volunteers.  The traditional Basque American menu includes: lamb chops, beans, salad, lamb stew, cheese, bread and wine.

Dance groups from the Los Banos Basque Club performed throughout the day with dantzaris of all ages, from young children to teenagers, participating.  The club annually awards scholarships to high school students in the community and this year’s winners were Courtney Yriarte and Chris Pon from Dos Palos High School and Sean Arbelbide of Los Banos High School.

If Basques directed themselves to Los Banos last weekend, their destination this weekend will be Bakersfield, California, less than 100 miles (about 150 kilometers) Northwest of Los Angeles.  In Kern County there is a very large Basque population and so Bakersfield always hosts its picnic on the last weekend in May at its club house whose amenities include grassy areas, a fronton, and a large parking lot.  This year’s program includes performances by Boise’s Amuma Says No, with dances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  For the sports fans, Pedro Eulate, Fernando Goñi III, Jon Apezetxea and Alberto Ongay, pilotaris from the Basque Country have been invited and will surely please the pilotazales in the crowd.

These festivals, however, only mark the beginning of the season.  Some of the better known get-togethers will be mentioned here.  In June events take place in: Winnemucca, Nevada, Thousand Oaks – Ventura County, California, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Homedale, Idaho.  In July events can be found in Elko, Nevada, at the Southern California Basque Club in Chino, in Gooding, Idaho and the NABO Convention hosted this year by Basque organizations in Reno, Nevada.  On the last day of July members of the Oinkari Dance group in Boise will kick off a celebration that will last all year long marking the group’s 50th anniversary.  And the first weekend in August will mark Boise’s celebration of San Inazio followed by Gardnerville, Nevada’s picnic in conjunction with Kantari Eguna (Singing Day), and festivals in Seattle, Washington, Mountain Home, Idaho, Buffalo and Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Battle Mountain, Nevada.  San Francisco Basque club is pushing up its Euskal Etxeko Jaialdia to August 29-30 to host NABO’s pilota finals as well.

Labor Day weekend, (first weekend of September) coincides with Chino, California’s Basque picnic, and later in the month Marin and Sonoma counties will also celebrate.  In October the Las Vegas, Nevada and Rocklin, California festivals round out the calendar and end another Basque festival season for another year.  More information is available on NABO’s website.

Related links

Amuma Says No

Pierre Igoa, a Basque local designer

Bakersfield Basque Mural by Pierre Igoa

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