County Welcomes Poet 3/22/17

Photo of Dana Gioia by Ricardo DeAratanha (Los Angeles Times)

Dana Gioia is in the midst of a commitment to visit every county in California, and arrives in Sierra County on Tuesday, April 4. He will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting at the County Courthouse at 11:30 AM. From there he moves to the Yuba Theatre at 12:30 PM for a poetry session open to everyone. The Downieville School students will join him for this gathering. And, finally, he will join anyone willing for lunch at the Masonic Hall at 1:30 PM. The lunch is being privately sponsored, enabling the cost per person to be held to $5.00. Lunch reservations need to be made by Wednesday, March 29, by calling 289-2751. The lunch is being catered by Jaada’s Kitchen of Downieville.

In the field of artistic endeavor, California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia, doesn’t limit himself to just writing poetry. Out of his love for and study of music, he has written the libretti (text) for three operas. Several of his poems have been set to music by many composers, including Dave Brubeck, Lori Laitman, Stefania de Kenessy, Paquito D’Rivera, and others. And, Alva Henderson composed a symphonic choral work based on Gioia’s poems. So, when Dana Gioia visits Sierra County and Downieville on April 4, he will be bringing quite a repertoire of talents with him.

He also brings with him a varied and rich personal history. He is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, born and raised in Hawthorne, a community in southwest Los Angeles. His mother’s Mestizo father had fled his reservation in New Mexico to settle in California, and his father’s family had immigrated from Sicily. He says, “My childhood was a rich mixture of European, Latino, Indian, Asian, and North American culture in which everything from Hollywood to the Vatican, Buddha to the Beach Boys had its place.”

For a time, Gioia worked in the corporate world, while trying to keep his work as a poet secret from his colleagues. He was “outed”, however, when, in 1984, he was featured in the first “Esquire Register of Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America”. As he says on his website, “Had it been merely a literary honor, no one would have noticed, but here was the name of a General Foods executive on a list with really important people like Julius ‘Doctor J.’ Erving, Whoopi Goldberg, Dale Murphy, and Steven Spielberg.”

Dana Gioia’s visit to Sierra County is being jointly presented by the California Arts Council, the Sierra County Arts Council, and the Downieville Library Station. For information about this event, visit Gioia’s own website, which contains information about the poet and his works, can be visited at

Easter Food Baskets 3/15/17

Dear Editor:

Easter will soon be here and the Western Sierra Food Bank, Inc volunteers are planning Easter Holiday food baskets for approximately 105 families in western Sierra County. We are needing non-perishable foods and or monies to supply the food bank shelves for Easter and after Easter. We appreciate any help the communities in western Sierra County and those outside of the area can supply.

Please contact Bette Jo or Frank Lang at (530) 289-3644 for any information. Also, if anyone wants to donate any non-perishable foods please call to co-ordinate delivery. Money donations can be sent to Western Sierra Food Bank, Inc., P.O. Box 254, Downieville, CA 95936.  We thank all who participate in this program.

Sincerely, Bette Jo Lang

Downieville Mountain Brewfest 3/8/17

Greetings to all of you that attended the 2016 Downieville Mountain Brewfest! This is advanced notice of 2017 ticket sales that will go on sale April 1, 2017 on Brown Paper Tickets for the August 12, 2017 Brewfest. Same bargain price, same time; 2pm-6pm. We’re planning another great event in Downieville with a couple changes to make it even better. Since last year was soooo hot, we are planning to have cooling tents and misters available in several locations. Free water will again be available for hydration. And we already have 20 brewing companies that are confirmed, so we’re just about set to go! Great music, food and fantastic brews! Check the website: and the Facebook event page for all the updates. We hope to see you again this August for another fun day of beer-tasting in Downieville! Cheers!

On The Shelf by Paul 3/8/17

Issue 2017 – 2
March 6, 2017
Book Share & Review Group
The group had its first gathering of the year on February 28, with six people participating. Here are some of the books that were shared:
What is the What, by Dave Eggers: this is the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, written as a novel. Deng was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who was forced to flee for his life as a child, ending up in refugee camps in Ethiopia and then Kenya, and finally making it to the United States. In 2015, nine years after the book was written, he became the minister of education for South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt – The Home Front in World War II, by Doris Kearns Goodwin: based on interviews with 86 people who knew them personally, the book chronicles the lives of the Roosevelt’s during the war. The title, “No Ordinary Time” is taken from the speech Eleanor Roosevelt gave at the 1940 Democratic Convention. The book received the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)
The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy: appearing originally as twelve monthly magazine installments in 1878, this book ultimately became one of Hardy’s most popular novels. The story, except for the epilogue, takes place within the environs of a single village, and covers exactly a year and a day, beginning and ending on Guy Fawkes Night. At its time of publishing in Victorian England, the book caused some consternation because of its deeply flawed heroine and its open acknowledgment of illicit sexual relationships. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)
Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, by Erik Larson: this account of the hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas, in 1900 focuses on Isaac Cline, chief weatherman for Texas. Despite the belief that no storm could do serious harm to the city, the storm killed as many as 10,000 people, and caused hurricane experts to revise their thinking about how hurricanes kill. The book won the American Meteorology Society’s Louis J. Battan Author’s Award. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)
Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, by Diane McWhorter: winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, this is well-researched, well-documented account, not only of the events in Birmingham in the year 1963, but also of what led up to those events in the decades that came before. The author, who grew up in Birmingham, initially wanted to determine who was responsible for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls, about the same age as the author at the time, were killed. Her book moves beyond that to detail the “long tradition of enmeshment between law enforcers [ranging from local and state police to the FBI] and Klansmen” on one side of the battle, and the relationships between the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and others on the other side of the battle. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
Sierra Stories: Tales of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues, by Gary Noy: the author is a native of Grass Valley, taught history at Sierra College, and founded the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies. This is a book of history, told in stories of individuals who have peopled the Sierras throughout human history. One chapter is entitled “Solid Gold Fishhooks: The Gold Lake Excitement of 1850”. (On the shelf at the Downieville Library.)
The Mountains Crack Up, by Jasper Tomkins: this children’s book is a sequel to the author’s earlier book, The Catalog. In this later book, three playful mountains receive a rude awakening when the bill arrives for all the animals they’ve ordered from the catalog. Now, they must find a way to pay what they owe; a little bear comes to their rescue. (Not currently in the Downieville Library.)

The next gathering of the group will be on Tuesday, April 25, 1:00 PM at the library. Put it on your calendar now, and start thinking about what books you would like to share.

Any book not currently on the shelf at the Downieville Library can be ordered from the Plumas Library system, or, in some cases, purchased directly for our local library. All you have to do is ask. Either stop by the library during its Tuesday (10-2) and Thursday (12-4) hours, or call at 289-3544 (you can leave a message, if necessary).

SoulSnow Ball Success 3/1/17

A huge thank you to everyone who attended last night. So many awesome costumes, the Soul train dance line was by farrrrr my favorite part of the evening! A big shout out to to Karen Hamilton and Ali Rambo for everything you do for us every year, Kaylon Hall and Sierra Folsom for your help at the door and a Right arm up to Liam SharpieFace Driskill, for bartending to the masses. Yes we are totally worn out but it’s so worth it to see everyone have so much fun! Again, thank you to everyone, you all have a hand in making this happen every year.     Jenny Varn & Heather Foster

The Gallery of Dancers

Letter for Tom 3/1/17

Tom Schumann

I feel compelled to write something upon hearing of Tom’s passing. I am not sure I know exactly why except maybe because he had a special quality that I find to be rare. I first became acquainted with Tom on the Grand Jury. He was gentle, soft spoken and a gentleman no matter the topic, the situation or his mood.

As I got to know him my respect for him grew, having learned bit by bit about his Ph.D. in Physics from UC Berkeley, the quintessential smart guy field of study. Later, I learned of his academic and publishing careers. Because of that I wanted my budding mathematician son Thor to talk with him every time they met downtown and I shamelessly used Tom to impress upon Thor the importance of study and higher education. Tom would throw Thor some math questions on a park bench and then hit him with some higher math concepts. I am grateful for that.

Tom, also as everybody knows, volunteered everywhere he could. When I was Lead Teacher of the school he approached me about volunteering his time as a math tutor. He also donated a scholarship to our graduates, and helped at the Museum. I am sure there is much else he did but that was my experience with him. He did not waste his time here in this life. He had energy and did not give up. His life did not pass by as a series of missed opportunities.

Finally, though he could have been arrogant about his academic accomplishments and the intelligence or even genius that they imply, he never once in my experience raised his voice, insulted, name called, categorized or behaved in any way other than as a decent person who didn’t see an enemy in opposition when discussing the controversies of the day.

That is something, I think, that our communities and our country could take a lesson from. It’s hard not to like and respect a person like that because you could tell he truly liked and respected you and wasn’t an intellectual in love with his own ideas at the cost of friendship and love. Maybe, for that reason alone I felt the need to write something, or simply because his qualities will be missed and I will miss him.

Augustine Corcoran, Downieville

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