Everyone was Basque at Fuji Park | NevadaAppeal.com

Everyone was Basque at Fuji Park

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Brian Sokol/Nevada Appeal Members of the Zenbat Gara traditional Basque dance troupe provide a cultural performance for a crowd of eager spectators at the St. Teresa's Basque Festival, Sunday afternoon at Fuji Park. The Zenbat Gara Dance Troupe was formed in 1989 by UNR professor Lisa M. Corcostegui (second from left) in order to educate the community, "so that we may grow in our appreciation of the Basque culture which manifests itself visibly in the form of dance."

You didn’t have to be of Basque ancestry to enjoy the super-picnic at the annual St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community Basque Festival at Fuji Park on Sunday.

Zenbat Gara, the University of Nevada, Reno’s Basque dancers whirled and danced in traditional European costumes. But just before their performance, three Carson City 14-year-olds, Christian Grant, Gus DeBacco and Tyler Smith, all St. Teresa members, did their version of the American Southern dance “Cotton-eyed Joe” to the traditional Basque music.

The three have been coming to the festival because it’s fun, said Grant.

Family-friendly activities didn’t have to be Basque to be popular, especially with the children. A huge bounce house, face painting, a football game and, of course, the playground were big hits.

Olivia Miller, 6, a student at St. Teresa, said she liked getting her face painted the best. Her sister, Emme, 3, preferred the dancing.

But the main attraction was the culture of seven provinces in southwestern France and northeastern Spain. The food, music and dancing offered a taste of the old country for several generations of festival-goers.

Recommended Stories For You

The authentic menu offered lamb and turkey roasted over an open, mahogany flame by a crew of 15 cooks, some from as far away as Ely. Basque chicken, rice, beans, potato salad, traditional green salad and a lamb stew were prepared by Adele chefs Charlie Abowd and Tony Fish.

Mike Lemich of Ely said it was his eighth year cooking at the festival

“We came to cook and brought our own mahogany wood,” he said. “Mahogany burns hot, has a good flavor, and makes a good barbecue. A lot better than briquettes.”

“The best part of this whole thing is none of the cooks are Basque, and that’s what they like about us.,” said Abowd. “The Lebanese, Serbs and Croats have respect for Basque traditions. We grew up eating Basque food.”

Adults could enjoy the traditional Basque drink picon – a sweet drink consisting of grenadine, Torani amber, a picon liquer, club soda, a lemon twist and a floater of brandy, according to bartender Ryan Russell, a lawyer in his other life and a regular at the festival.

Another Basque tradition – sheepherding – was demonstrated by Sandy Moore and his dogs. Justin, a 12-year-old Australian shepherd, needed only to look at the sheep to make them move his way. He moved them from one corner of the enclosure to the other then herded them into and out of a much smaller pen.

Handler DeLila Welch of Gardnerville said Justin was retired, but still came out for occasional demonstrations.

Lisa Corcostegui of Reno, a member of Zenbat Gara along with her husband, Enrique, said the group could use a few more men.

Paul Woodin was the only other male dancer in the group, which also featured Carolyn Van Lydegraf, Denise Inda and Noel Arraiz, all of Reno.

“Traditional Basque dance is all for men,” she said. “We’re looking for a few good men.”

Mary Lou Etchegoin of Carson City said she attended the festival, a fund-raiser for the youth ministry of St. Teresa’s, out of pride in her heritage.

“I like it because we are Basque,” she said. “We like it very much.”

— Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.