It's the Moments: '06 Basque Festivals

Published here in Astero Oct. 11, 2006 by John M. Ysursa, NABO Facilitator.  Neither NABO or the Basque Government is responsible for the following content. 

The celebration in Las Vegas last weekend brought to a close the 2006 Basque festival season.  After verifying with Aita Martxel Tillous--our leading authority on Basque festivals because he goes to almost all of them--the season stretches from April to October.  Here are ten moments from the ten Basque events we attended. 

Stop #1: Ventura County, CA

This annual one-day picnic at Camarrilo State Park, that is situated at the base of mountains next to a fruit tree grove, is always a nice affair. The meal is a special treat as they offer you three different meats: chicken, steak & lamb. The Chino "Gauden Bat" performed, and then we danced to the music of Jean Flesher & Jean Pierre Etchechury. Here is the president of the club, Jose Urrutia, standing in front of the NABO Touring Photo Exhibit which was displayed for the first time.

Stop #2: Bakersfield, CA
Every year the Kern County Basques put on one great party during Memorial Day weekend, and this year was no exception. An added bonus was the music of Jose Angel Elizalde who traveled from Nafarroa to play accordion for the weekend. They also regularly bring over handball players from the Basque country, and they played some good games.

This year's festivities was preceded by the first Basque symposium on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield with the hope of soon creating a Bakersfield Basque Studies program there. It was a great moment seeing a good crowd show up, giving us hope that maybe something can really be created in Bakersfield.

While the festival is always a joy to attend, it's also an excuse to sample the local Basque restaurants--so I was sure to hit four of them while there.

Stop #3: Gardnerville, NV
NABO National Mus Tournament

The 2006 NABO Mus tournament was hosted by the Gardnerville "Mendiko Euskaldun" club. The main dining room of the Overland Hotel was filled with teams from all around. It was a great day, with some great games but the only problem with this moment is that I wasn't in the photo of champions [Noel Erdozaincy & Raymond Lahargou (center pair) from San Francisco; the second place team was Manuel Villanueva & Tony Vitoria] is that I somehow wasn't included. I blame this on NABO Mus chairperson Victor Esain and not at all on my poor playing.

Stop #4: Elko, NV
NABO's Udaleku Summer Camp

I don't know how Bob Echeverria did it (maybe the Jack Daniels) but he got me to again assist with Udaleku in Elko this year. This was my eighth tour of duty (BTW Aita Tillous is the record holder with 11 camps) and I'd have to say it was my easiest because of various factors, including a great support staff there in Elko that included Bob and Anita Franzoia, cooperative kids, and a superb group of instructors that included Lisa Corcostegui, Jenny Ysursa, Garikoitz Otamendi, Maialen Irastorza, Aita Tillous, Joseba Etxarri & Haritz Zubiaur.

Stop #5: Elko part II
Elko National Basque Festival

The Elko festival is always a good time to get together again with friends and family. It is one of the largest gatherings around, and it's a fine setting. If you didn't know, Elko is now also known for its annual "Running from the Bulls" event that precedes the festival weekend. An "L" shaped path is fenced off on a downtown street, and some courageous/cracy (that's the meaning of "A Thin Red Line") runners challenge the five or so bulls. I'd never seen it before, so it was a real moment to remember (but then so was going to eat at Elko's fine restaurants)

Stop #5: Elko part III
NABO's Kantari Eguna

There was one more special moment in Elko that came at the annual NABO Kantari Eguna (Singing Festival). The event preceded the dance on Saturday night, but the opening consisted of about a dozen participants (including some kids from the just completed Udaleku) who sang a variety of songs that went right into the festivities.

This year's edition included some sing-a-alongs with the lyrics on powerpoint and the audience got into the spirit. It's always a special moment when people share a song together. Then it was really time to leave Elko and do some laundry and pay the stacked-up bills.

Stop #6: Reno, NV
Annual Festival

The Reno Basque Club has its annual festival in what I consider to be one of the best locations around: Wingfield Park on the banks of the Truckee River. There in the center of town, all are invited to join in the celebration. It's great the Reno Basques make this effort to reach out to their neighbors. The moment that stands out was standing on the bank of the river watching my sons play in the water, while behind me the festival was going on with the music of the visiting band "Ketxo."

Stop #7: Buffalo, WY
NABO Convention

We made our trip to Buffalo our family vacation, and went via Yellowstone park (so yes we logged some miles this summer). It really was a great Buffalo Besta. NABO delegates gathered for our tri-annual meeting, but it wasn't just about work. The moment that stood out there was when we were addressed by a couple of older Basque men who told us about the early years of the Basque community in Buffalo.

My wife Jenny encapsulated another great moment: while listening to the music of Tapia & Leturia who came to play, she commented on how their music brought about "joy."

Stop #8: Boise, ID
San Inazio Festival

Going to Boise is always a special treat because I was born and raised there. Every year the area Basques celebrate the feast of their patron saint, Ignatius of Loyola with a weekend of festivities.

A special moment was 25 Years of Liturgical Dance in Boise. We were joined by the director of the original group in the Basque country from where the Boise Basques got the dances, and he did us the honor of coming out of retirement to perform with us.

Stop #9: Chino, CA
Labor Day Weekend Festival
The 39th annual festival of the Chino Basque Club was again a pleasure. The only problem with this weekend is that there is more work to do because it's a home-game and we're not just visiting. A moment that weekend included the annual celebration of the Besta Berri procession at mass. Another extraordinary moment of the weekend came with participating in the Basque chefs tour

Stop #10: Las Vegas, NV
25th Annual Festival

I've been going to Las Vegas for the Basque festival for many years (and no it's not about the gambling because I don't really get into it), and it was a pleasure once again to be invited to be a part of their 25th anniversary picnic. The moment here was seeing the club come back together again after last year's sudden lose of a long-time director which necessitated cancelling the event last October. Pictured is their local dance group.

The story continues...

While the festivals might have ended for now, that doesn't mean the party is over. Many clubs have a slate of events for the fall. In Winnemucca, for example, they are having a Wine Tasting/Dinner Dance for the Santa Rosa Basque Club. Preceding it is a Mus tournament of Oct. 28th at the Martin Hotel. Half the entry fee will go to prize money. But hurry and register by Oct. 12 by calling Tina at (775) 625-1809.


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