Article by Alex Colvin and photos by Lace Photography
07/07/15 – Burney was buzzing with activity over the 4th of July weekend as it celebrated its 60th Diamond Jubilee.
Events kicked off on Thursday evening at the VFW Hall with the Burney Basin Days Queen Pageant. The hall was packed as seven charming young ladies competed. Each contestant gave a speech, answered questions presented by the judges, and modeled in causal, summer, and formal dress.
Every contestant won a title. Monica Blanco won Miss Personality; Autumn Boyle, Miss Congeniality; and Beverly Vaughn, Miss Photogenic. Gabriella Chacon was crowned 3rd Princess; Caiya McCloud, 2nd Princess; and Faith Scalf, 1st Princess. The 2015 Queen of Burney Basin Days is Crystal Flores, a student at Burney High School,
The winner of the race for Honorary Mayor of Burney, Patty Williams, was also introduced at the pageant. Williams raised money for the Hospice program. Kim Stier came in second raising funds for the Senior Nutrition Center. Also running were Linda Colvin, who collected donations for SNIPPP, and Tom Moore, raising funds for Senior Nutrition Center.
On Friday, the Burney Reunites Welcome Center opened featuring a display of Burney history and an Art Show by the Intermountain Artists. In the evening, there was Tough Man Boxing at the Pit River Casino followed by live music. The Rex Club also sponsored a community social with live music.
Saturday morning began with a Chuck Wagon Breakfast cooked by the Burney Lions Club and an Arts and Craft Show sponsored by the local Soroptomist Club.
At 10 a.m. Hwy 299 through Burney was closed for the bed races and parades. The bed races began about 10:20. Teams of racers pushed, pedaled and pulled iron beds on wheels that they had constructed. Halfway down the course, they had to stop, get out of bed and jump rope. The competition was spirited and intense, but when the results came in the same bed that had won for the last 6 years won again. The bed race was organized by Steve and Jennifer Luck of Burney Reunites.
Next came the Kiddie Parade, with youngsters on bikes and toddlers on trikes and wagons racing down the highway to the Alpine Drive-In to be rewarded with an ice cream reward.
As the toddlers receded, the 60th Annual Burney Basin Days Parade began. Tommy George, an elder of the Pit River Tribe, was the Grand Marshall. This year’s parade was excellent, with a number of floats celebrating the theme of Diamond Jubilee. The prize for best float went to Burney Reunites for a panoramic display of 60 years of Basin Days history made out of 12,000 stuffed napkins. It took a lot of work to make that float.
The parade was a celebration of community. The Jefferson State Bagpipers marched in the parade beating their drums and blowing their pipes. The Queen and her court rode through waving to the crowd from the back of a pick-up. Honorary Mayor Williams walked the parade handing out candy to children. Fire trucks, the Sherriff’s Department, Mayers Memorial Hospital, Citizens Patrol, the Burney 4H, Civil War reenactors, the NorCal Road Gypsies Car Club, several local businesses, and many more took part. The parade ended with a wagonload of Asphalt Cowboys shooting holes through straw hats.
After the parade, festivities continued at the VFW Hall where the bagpipers played a concert while people ate a generous serving of delicious barbecued beef.
At five o’clock, the gates opened at Burney High School football field for the pre-fireworks show sponsored by The Rotary Club of Burney and Fall River Mills. As the crowd grew, local singers and songwriters entertained the audience with blues, folk, country, and cowboy tunes. One couple, Marty and Vicky McAbee, wrote a song named “Ring the Bells of Freedom” especially for the event.
A highlight of the evening was a demonstration of Native American Music by the Pit River Nation Drum Group. They explained about the large drum they used and the music and then drummed and sang several songs of blessing and honor. Suddenly Ira Wynn, one of the leaders of the group got an inspiration and called to Crystal Flores, the new Burney Basin Days Queen to organize a circle for a Round Dance. Everyone was invited to join. Led by the Queen and her court, dozens of children and adults, including Mayor Williams and Jill Barnett, the Chairperson of the Burney Basin Days Committee, danced a traditional friendship dance.
The New Mayor, Queen, and royalty were introduced, and parade trophies were awarded. Bill Campbell, the MC for the event, roamed the audience interviewing people who had come to attend the 4th of July celebration.
As night began to fall, band students from both Burney and Fall River Mills High School presented a concert of upbeat renditions of popular music under the direction of Hugo Castro, their music teacher. Following the band concert, Campbell introduced Janice Hamlin, a talented local soprano, who led the audience in a sing-along of patriotic songs culminating in her stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. As soon as the music ceased, everyone was treated to a dazzling 25 minute fireworks display.
Sunday morning began with another Lions Chuck Wagon breakfast. Then activities continued with a lap-a-thon at the Raymond Berry Community Pool, and a car show and horseshoe tournament at the Pit River Casino. The craft show continued and there was a steady flow of people visiting Burney Reunites Center and viewing the art show. People’s Choice Awards for the art show were announced at 4 p.m. bringing the four day festive celebration to a conclusion.
Yet for some Burney residents another unexpected treat was still in store – in the local Safeway store to be more exact. Clint Eastwood was in town buying groceries. Eastwood owns a ranch nearby. He is much loved and respected by the people in Burney. When he comes to town, people generally respect his privacy and don’t want to bother him. But it’s always a thrill. On this occasion it was especially thrilling as he exited the store wishing everyone he passed a “Happy 4th of July!”
Indeed, it was a happy 4th of July in Burney.
Alex Colvin is co-owner of The Lace Gallery in Burney, California. He previously wrote for non-profit corporations in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. Since returning to Burney, where he has deep family roots, Alex and his wife Linda have dedicated themselves to exploring and photographing the natural beauty of Northern California.