Each year as summer drifts slowly south on the Feather River and autumn steals silently down the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the foothills and then across the broad Sacramento Valley, a historical experience is readied for presentation to the people of northern California.
Beckwourth Frontier Days, northern California's first living history festival, takes place the first weekend in October at Beckwourth Riverfront Park in Marysville, California.
Beckwourth Frontier Days, the festival, was established to honor James P. Beckwourth, an unsung, genuine American hero of mixed ancestorage who created a lower, safer passage across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the mid-1800s.
Marysville, is the gateway to Gold Country... and the end of the Beckwourth wagon train trek across the Sierras.
Beckwourth Frontier Days is a hands-on historical experience for young and old alike. This year, for the first time a third day will be added to the festival to enable schools to take advantage of local history lessons provided in the hands-on format.
Arriving at the festival you will enter the grounds through a giant conestoga wagon. Once you have stepped back into the 19th century you will be challenged to follow the Beckwourth Trail.
As the Trail winds its way through the festival grounds you will pass through the encampments of Mountain Men, a Wagon Train, Buffalo Soldiers, native American Indians, and gold prospectors.
There is much to learn and enjoy in each area as participants demonstrate life in the mid 1800s by telling stories, playing games, demonstrating black powder and blacksmithing, having contests and generally living as folks did a hundred and fifty years ago.
You can rendezvous with tomahawk and knife throwing mountain men, spin yarn with pioneers and even pan for real gold with a real prospector!
A nineteenth century ambiance is created by uniformed, mounted Buffalo Soldiers, other costumed horsemen and docents, dressed in period clothing, who speak in the first person of life in the old days.
Along the trail you will encounter many other costumed impersonators who, taking on the persona of characters from the 1849 to 1880s period of history, tell stories of their historical significance in the Yuba-Sutter community.
Later, perhaps after a barge ride, stop off at the neighborhood saloon, visit with the Medicine Man or investigate arts and craft merchants and food vendors who will hawk their wares to you. Quite a variety of ethnic food is always available.
Strolling musicians will ply you with their talents along the trail, but you will still want to save some time to be entertained by the presentations on stage. A large variety of acts that range from a reenactment of the trial when Beckwourth sued Marysville, to cowboy poets, cloggers, a church revival, melodrama and much more are presented for your entertainment throughout each day.
The ever-changing activity area is a fun spot to visit. Take part in the fun and games of horseshoes and frog jump contests, children's area, petting zoo, farm yard, sheep dog demos and more.
An attempt to create an understanding of the impact of all cultures on local history is made by displays, storytelling and presentations in a special heritage area. Local contemporary life is the derivative of the mixing of many cultures that blend their best customs. Beckwourth Frontier Days provides exposure to the very roots of our own wonderfully varied cultural mix including... Chinese, Mexican, African, native American, Christian, Jewish, prospectors, frontiersmen, entrepreneurs... all people who have helped influence and develop our community, our state... America.
The annual festival, expanding rapidly in popularity locally, is also becoming well-known statewide and across the entire nation. Inquiries from the east coast, Colorado and southern California indicate growing interest and plans for future participation in the festival.
Beckwourth Frontier Days 1995 was dedicated to Vern Williams who portrayed James Beckwourth the first four and a half years until his untimely death in May of that year.
For more information go to http://www.beckwourth.org, the official web site for Beckwourth Frontier Days.