Every September the community of Paradise comes together to celebrate local history. “Days of Living History” is an annual two-day festival that raises funds for the Gold Nugget Museum. It also gives people a chance to learn something about the past, and each other. I didn’t learn much history, but I did learn about the great community to be found in Chico’s neighbor on the ridge.
Adults, seniors and even a few teens put lots of time and effort into helping children have a good time. They encouraged hands-on learning. Volunteers showed kids how to pan for gold, wash laundry by hand and make compost for gardens. Children lined up to dip strings in a pot of hot wax to make taper candles. Girls sat patiently while women tied colorful scraps of cloth in their hair. Other kids packed bread dough into small pans, learned how to make rope or capped homemade root beer.
Dozens of volunteers donned period costumes and recounted life in Paradise from 1859-1959. The annual festival celebrated the 1859 discovery of a 54-pound gold nugget – there’s a replica on display.
This year’s event took place in a mostly shaded outdoor area behind the Gold Nugget Museum that included a blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, dozens of booths and lots of picnic tables. A creek meandered through the festival like a visitor exploring a new town.
Many people eagerly sampled blackberry or elderberry jam on crackers. Toddlers and their older siblings dug excitedly in a large basket of sawdust in search of shiny rocks, eventually turning to their parents with wide smiles and treasures in hand. Some parents helped their kids pan for gold or joined in the afternoon cake walk. During lunch time, people munched on chili dogs and sipped lemonade at picnic tables.
Volunteers known as the “Law Dawgs and Pistoleros” put on a historical reenactment that included some gunfire, the thrill of discovering gold and a mock trial. The reenactment was cheesy and longer than it needed to be, but the kids enjoyed the gunfire, if not the trial. Microphones and a script could have made the reenactment more engaging for the adults in the crowd. Maybe next year, the museum will enlist the help of Theatre on the Ridge, another local treasure.
I would also have liked to see live music rather than the MC playing songs such as “Downtown” that didn’t fit with the museum’s theme. Butte County is bursting with talent, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a band willing to play at such a well-attended event.
For those looking for a respite from the heat, the air-conditioned Gold Nugget Museum offered a display of artifacts from the early days on the ridge, such as tools, clothing and furniture.
With its annual festival, the museum gave the community a chance to come together, to learn about its past and to see hundreds of children – the future – learning and having fun.
The Gold Nugget Museum is at 502 Pearson Road in Paradise. It’s open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Admission for its annual festival is $5. For more information, call the museum at (530) 872-8722 or visit goldnuggetmuseum.com.
To see photos of the Gold Nugget Museum and this year’s festival, click here.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at email@example.com.