Heritage Day at McArthur-Burney Falls State Park was an amazing pageant of life, music and culture in the late 1800’s . The event, sponsored by the McArthur-Burney Falls Interpretive Association in partnership with CAL PARKS, took place on October 11 in the woods between the new visitor’s center and the park store just a few minutes walk from beautiful Burney Falls
On Heritage Day, parking and admission are free. My wife Linda and I arrived shortly after noon and already the upper parking lots were filled. We were directed down the road toward Lake Britton. Along the way we were greeted by friendly members of the Burney Lions who guided us into a maze of campgrounds and cabins where we located a parking spot.
Walking up toward the activity area, I stopped to talk with Walt Libal. He told me that the Lions were directing traffic for the first half of the program and The Rotary Club of Burney and Fall River were directing for the second half. Libal also told me that the Lionesses were catering the event and young Leos, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts were helping to staff the various historical displays. George Chapman was in charge of the Boy Scouts, and Bill Ford was overseeing the Cub Scouts. Melissa Madden, activities director at Burney High School, helped to coordinate the Leos.
One interesting view place to get a view of the event was from inside the old pioneer log cabin built in the 1800’s.
As I walked into the gathering I was greeted by the tempting smell of barbecue and the pleasing sound of old-time music. Throughout the afternoon a series of groups played acoustic Americana. One that particularly caught my attention was the Meyer family from Manton. Matthew and Marlo Meyer and their talented daughters Grace and Maddy demonstrated the way families entertained in the past when every member of the family played an instrument. Particularly charming was their rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon.
I heard a friendly greeting from Bob Jehn, President of the Rotary Club, who was assisting one of the booths. He asked me why I wasn’t up there playing music.
“Because I’m writing an article,” I said.
“You’re always writing an article, ” he replied, laughing.
Off to the side I saw Bill Campbell from the Rotary Club, also busy taking pictures for an article.
Then it was time to experience the “hands-on” participation exhibits, which included candlemaking, branding, saw-bucking, blacksmithing, pine doll-making, bead-making, apple squeeze, spinning, rope-making, and tug-on-a-box.
Each booth provided a fun educational experience for the whole family. Everyone had an opportunity not only to watch skilled volunteers explain and show how an old fashioned craft or activity was done, but to do it themselves.
Samples of delicious fresh cider produced by the apple squeeze were available to all for a donation.
Sally Privette from Shingletown, who was teaching youngsters how to design a brand, took time to tell me that an old homesteader named Sullaway had just been listed in the Burney Falls Cemetery. I didn’t even know there was a cemetery in the park. It has 41 interments. Sullaway’s homestead by the Pit now lies beneath Lake Britton.
Blacksmith Ron Smith was hard at work show demonstrating his skills.
Lots of kids were enjoying beading.
Mary Elizondo, who raises the fish at Crustal Lake Hatchery, was busy demonstrating and explaining the art of making dolls out of pine needles.
These two young men were having a lot of fun sawing this log.
The Pit River Pioneers came out to display their black powder muskets.
This Boy Scout spent a lot of time teaching young folk how to make rope out of twine. Each youngster walked away with a nice section of hand-made rope.
Some events were just-plain fun. There was a steady line of people waiting to compete to see who could pull one another off of a wood box.
The four-hour happening drew a steady stream of hundreds of people from near and far. People came from all over Northern California to participate. One of the men I met was Scoutmaster Dave Affleck from Mt. Shasta. Affleck had brought ten scouts from Scotts Valley Troop No. 97 to hike the Burney Falls loop and then attend Heritage Day. He told me that he had taken several groups of Scouts to do a week-long hike from the north rim to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. In some spots the temperatures hit 133 degrees. The hikers only hiked in the early morning and then rested during the hot part of the day in shaded campgrounds where water was available. He also had taken Scouts on trips to Alaska.
“It’s amazing that they’ve been doing this every year for 30 years!” said Cox.
It pretty much took most of the four hours to take in all of the activities. We did take a little time to walk over to enjoy the falls. However, in spite of all the activity, the day was not tiring. The community spirit and the music were relaxing and invigorating.
Linda and I wandered back down through the woods and found our car. As we drove home, I thought, “I just feel so peaceful.”