Folks and folklore at the Basque Festival |

Folks and folklore at the Basque Festival

photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Zenbat Gara dancers entertain the crowd at Fuji Park during the Basque Festival on Sunday. Top left photo, Zenbat Gara dancers from left, T.J. Friedmann, Carolyn Van Lydegraf, and Lisa Corcostegui, all of Reno, perform at Fuji Park. Top right photo, Nolan Hogan, 6, of Carson City, laughs at his friends Michael Mamii, 9, and Jake Taylor, 9, as they fall during a potato sack race at the Festival.

It was a Sunday.

Naturally, the annual St. Teresa of Avila Basque Festival started out with a cheery, bright morning mass.

But Fuji Park soon turned blustery as snow clouds riddled the nearby mountains with wintery haze. The threat eventually turned into raindrops, but couldn’t stop the crowds from enjoying the annual cultural festival.

Next door at Costco, people carted out 144-count boxes of generic lime-flavored soda and 12-month supplies of toilet paper in rickety carts, while the line for chorizo and wine stretched 300-deep as the 7th annual Basque Festival got underway.

With three of the best chefs in Carson cooking the food – Nevada Appeal food columnists Charlie Abowd, Linda Marrone and Molly Gingel – the crowded banquet tables were soon overflowing with food and drink, evident on the stained white tablecloths later in the day, standing richly with promise as an oil painter’s palette.

The Basque cooks came from Ely and started work at 3:30 a.m. The mahogany is an indigenous wood from the area, which makes a perfect charcoal for cooking. No flame is used. Twelve turkeys on a spit are roasted at a time with onions and lemons, taking 5 to 6 hours to cook.

Money raised went to benefit St. Teresa parochial school at 3000 North Lompa Lane South, which houses kindergarten through 8th grade.

It seems like everyone knows someone who knows someone at the Basque Festival.

“This is a big community gathering,” said Mary Ann Randall, director of religious education at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community. “It’s a good family day. Our youth group handles all the kids’ activities like Whiffle Ball, sack races, volleyball and face painting.”

As children grabbed scraps of wood from a log-chopping contest, the big raffle was held.

A third-grader won a case of Spanish wine, but equally surprising, Lisa Tolda, a photographer for a Reno-based newspaper was the lucky grand prize winner, taking home a $3,000 trip to Basque country.

Chairman of the Basque Festival, Jon Cavilia, said it wasn’t the coldest nor the warmest festival he’s seen in his seven years.

“But it looks good,” he said. “Attendance seems to be pretty good.”

Among the popular Basque specialties, steaming-hot Winnemucca coffee with 1Ú2 oz. of brandy and 1Ú2 oz. of anisette helped warm the crowd.

The volunteer effort aims to raise $30,000 – $40,000 a year, utilizing the 100-plus volunteers that start planning for the day some 6-8 months in advance.

Five-year-old Australian sheep herder “Zephyr” chased 5 sheep in the pen. The animals moved in sync, two or three going left and the others going right, as if they were working from one brain.

Zephyr gets the sheep in step and then lies supine in the middle of the pen and waits while owner Adrieller Fuller tells him what to do next.

A Winnemucca coffee would be nice.

Contact Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.