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[Maureen] Macdonald will head 44th Annual Basque Festival as Grand Marshall (en Great Basin Sun)


The 44th Annual Winnemucca Basque Festival is kicking off Friday, June 7 with the 3K run/walk beginning at the Humboldt Museum, in the evening. Then, the next morning, there will be a parade at 11 a.m. and live music and dance performances on Nixon Lawn. The weekend will wrap up with a special Basque mass and breakfast on June 9.

Enlace: Great Basin Sun

Julia Maestrejuan. “[The Basque Festival] is a weekend of everyone coming together to eat, drink and be happy, as cliche as that sounds. It's a weekend to show how proud and blessed I feel to be Basque and to share it with my Basque family and the community,” said this year’s Grand Marshal Maureen Macdonald. 

Macdonald has been a long-time Euskaldunak Danak Bat (Winnemucca Basque Club) member and Winnemucca Irrintzi Dancer, first putting on her red skirt and lacing up her espadrilles when she was just four years old. 

Macdonald’s grandparents, Jean Trounday and Gracieuse Anchachahar Trounday of the Osses and St-Martin-d’Arrossa area of France, came to the United States and were in the sheep business in Smith Valley, Nevada, eventually moving to Reno. Her late mother Blanche (a two-time Winnemucca Basque Festival Grand Marshall in the past) and her brother Roger were raised immersed in the Basque culture and thankfully shared that with their children. In 1963, her mother married her father Bill Macdonald and moved to Winnemucca where they raised her  and her brother Mike. They have all been proud members of the Euskaldunak Danak Bat ever since.

“My grandparents came to the United States from the Old Country for a better life, the American Dream; it's an honor for me to be able to share with everyone the traditions of my ancestors,” said Macdonald. 

Growing up, Macdonald danced with the Winnemucca Irrintzi Dancers until graduating from Lowry High School and during that time she performed at numerous festivals all over the Western US. She attended Basque Camp (Udaleko) in Boise, Elko, Reno and Salt Lake City, where she learned even more about her heritage and met more like-minded and lifelong friends. Her sophomore year of college was spent studying in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain.

Since moving back home after living in Spain and finishing college, Macdonald has served as President, Vice President, Board of Directors, dancer liaison and instructor, festival chair and is currently a North American Basque Organizations delegate and dancer with the adult Irrintzi Dancers.

“I've been involved in the Basque Club for most of my life," she said. "I hope that through festivals and just day-to-day tasks that we sometimes take for granted our traditions will never be lost. I do it through Basque dancing, cooking: making flan, sheepherder's bread, and chorizos, gardening, sewing and needlework—all skills I learned from my mom and other close family friends—and I love that the younger generation wants to learn the same.”

The Basque culture is intricately woven into Winnemucca and Humboldt County’s rich history, which is still evident in the remnants crafted by local Basque people over the years and especially the thriving festival. Those who participate in it are paying tribute to the traditions of their ancestors, and those who are not Basque but still come out to celebrate are able to share in the culture. 

“As a kid, Festival always meant the end of school, the beginning of summer, and I couldn't wait to celebrate with family and see friends who I hadn't seen for a while. I couldn't wait to put on my costume and dance! Now, I guess it's still similar, except the school part, but it means a weekend of sharing my heritage with everyone,” explained Macdonald. 

Macdonald’s late mother, brother Mike and his wife Liz, niece Taylor, nephew Heston, and cousin Kathy have all helped with various aspects of the festival and Macdonald said that she is so happy to work together as a family, even while missing her mother tremendously. 

“This weekend let’s celebrate being Basque and raise a glass in honor of our ancestors and all those who have paved the way and taught us these traditions and to all of us who are making them live on!” Macdonald said.

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