Basque Festival, steeped in tradition, has become more than just a Sunday picnic |

Basque Festival, steeped in tradition, has become more than just a Sunday picnic

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff Writer

Enrike Corcostegui of the Zenbat Gara group dances with Andrea Gmuender, 4, of San Jose, Calif., at the 2004 Basque Festival. This year's festival will be Sunday at Fuji Park. BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

The smell of traditional Basque foods will be wafting in the air Sunday during the eighth annual St. Teresa Basque Festival at Fuji Park.

The festival, steeped in Basque tradition, has become more than a Sunday picnic. It offers the community a chance to see some of Nevada’s heritage at its finest. Sheepherding demonstrations, Zenbat Gara dancers from the University of Nevada, Reno, and Jesus Goni, bertzolari – a Basque verse singer.

“His singing is so beautiful, even if I don’t understand what he’s saying,” said Tammy Westergard, founding committee member and publicity chairwoman.

“I’m really excited about the festival. It’s hard to believe it’s our eighth year. It just grows every year.”

A bertzolari is a Basque poet who improvises emotionally sung poems to the crowds about whatever is taking place – children, games, weather, it’s all versed.

“He just spontaneously starts singing in Basque about the beauty of the day, friendship, food and children,” Westergard said. “Jesus is a Presidential Endowment of the Arts nominee. His contributions are wonderful and he’s been here for all our years.”

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Goni is from Gardnerville, as are Stephanie and Juan Brauna, daughter and father who are members of the Gardnerville Basque Woodchoppers Club. Juan taught Stephanie how to chop and they have competed against each other many times.

“She’s beat him a few times, too,” Westergard said. “It’s unusual for women to do this, but they train quite a bit for this. It’s very serious.”

The 20-30 Club of Carson Valley has loaned the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church its grease pole. “The kids try to shimmy up the pole, which is about 15-feet tall, to get a flag. Then they get a prize,” Westergard said

Westergard said people are coming from the Bay area and Fresno, Calif., to attend.

“It’s not just Carson City and Gardnerville. More than 1,500 came last year, and it’s growing year after year,” she said.

The event has raised more than $100,000 since it began. Funds are split between St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School and youth programs at St. Teresa’s church.

Mary Ann Randall, director of religious education at St. Teresa, said funds are used in outreach areas, for retreats and education.

“This year, the youth went to San Francisco and worked with the poor,” Randall said.

“The Basque festival is more than a fund-raiser, it’s a great community builder. It’s a nice time to get families together.”

Rick Redican, principal of St. Teresa’s school, said the money is used for everything from maintenance to salaries.

“We split about $30,000 between the two programs last year,” said Redican.

For information on the festival, visit Tickets are $25 for adults; youth 16 and younger are admitted free. The Basque meal includes barbecued lamb, lamb stew, barbecue turkey, Basque beans, sheepherder bread, green salad, beverages and ice cream. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be available for the youth.

“Ely’s Sacred Heart Church knows how to do lamb just right,” Westergard said. “Charlie Abowd at Adele’s also does some great cooking.”

n Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.

Celebrate Basque heritage

WHAT: St. Teresa’s eighth annual Basque Festival

WHEN: Sunday – Gates open at 11 a.m.; Mass in the park at noon; 1-3 p.m. traditional Basque meal; 1-4 p.m. games and special events

WHERE: Fuji Park

TICKETS: Adults $25; youth 16-younger free. Available at Adele’s, 1112 N. Carson St.; St. Teresa School, 567 Richmond Ave.; St. Teresa parish office, 3000 N. Lompa Lane

CALL: 882-1968 or 882-2130