A visit with Santa, roasting chestnuts, carols and more
by Courtney Ferguson
Over the years, this event has become a popular tradition, and last year over 2,000 visitors came to celebrate. “For many, it’s a chance to introduce visiting family and friends to our magnificent Park,” said Event Chair Troy Hammer. “Thanksgiving’s over – and many of us wonder how to keep everyone entertained. While we introduce new activities and surprises each year, Santa and Mrs. Claus remain a major attraction. My personal theory is that the sooner Santa hears what we want for Christmas, the better our chances are, and Holidays at Empire Mine is the perfect way to share those wishes early. Of course, I’m not offering guarantees, but I can promise a truly festive, magical experience for the whole family to share.”
Each year introduces extra activities. For example, this year, while Santa and Mrs. Claus take their break from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., engaging juggler/storyteller Izzi Tooinsky will present his show, A Toymaker’s Journey through the Gold Rush. Izzi’s performed all over the world, and his show combines vaudeville with gold-mine history. Tooinsky is scheduled for Friday on the Clubhouse porch. On Saturday, wearing their festive finest, local band Celtic Joy will perform traditional music from Ireland, the British Isles, and Europe. Nearby, local food-and-drinks vendors will be on hand with hot dogs, sandwiches, pastries, and hot-and-cold drinks – as well as face painting for the children. Colorful Ray-Ray the Clown will also be on hand with balloons and smiles. Local magician Peter Franchino will amaze the crowds as well, while he shares a few magicians’ secrets. For traditional caroling, visitors can enjoy the Lambs Children’s Choir on Friday and Sierra Gold Chorus on Saturday.
There are many other highlights, including appearances by one-man-band, Gary Hinze both days in the Mineyard. Harpist Kurtis Bershaw will fill Empire Cottage with seasonal music on Friday; and singer/guitarist Heather MacAdam on Saturday. Complimentary Christmas cookies will be served. “Both the Clubhouse and Empire Cottage will be lavishly decorated,” Hammer added, “and many say it’s like stepping into an old-fashioned, early 1900s’ Christmas card.” Chestnuts will be roasting in the Mineyard, and Living History docents will be all dressed up as they portray the characters who shaped our glittering gold-mine past. It’s a unique combination of history, entertainment and fun for all ages. Highly recommended is a visit to the busy Blacksmith Shop. With forges blazing, here’s where visitors can learn what life was like when Empire was in its heydays – and ranked as one of the largest, oldest and most prosperous hard-rock gold mines in North America. Another “must” is the GiftShop, where hand-crafted items from the Blacksmith Shop are sold – as well as jewelry, geological artifacts, books and mementoes for all ages and budgets.
Holidays at Empire Mine is hosted by Empire Mine Park Association, the organization dedicated to supporting Empire Mine State Historic Park. “It’s a wonderful way to start the Holidays and help keep our Park an international attraction,” Hammer emphasized. “Each year we welcome around 100,000 visitors from all over America and all over the world, including children on school tours.“ Everyone’s invited to this event on Friday, November 24th and Saturday, November 25th at Empire Mine State Historic Park, 10791 E. Empire St., Grass Valley – with special activities from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days. Phone the Visitor Center at (530) 273-8522 or visit http://www.empiremine.org for further details.