Debbie Croft: As wildflowers bloom, foothills come alive with activities

Winter’s frost has disappeared in the foothills, and spring’s wildflowers are in bloom. From music to minerals, from Easter celebrations to outdoor adventures, visitors will find much to enjoy this month in the Sierra Nevada communities:

• Enjoy a gourmet Easter Brunch this Sunday.

In Yosemite the Ahwahnee, the Wawona Hotel and Tenaya Lodge will offer a special holiday menu featuring garden produce and select recipes from their kitchens.

Times, prices and menus vary. Visit the following websites for further information: or

Reservations are recommended and park entrance is free this weekend.

An Easter Buffet will be served at the Historic National Hotel and Restaurant in Jamestown. See, or call (800) 894-3446 for details.

And the Cellar Door Restaurant at the Groveland Hotel will hold an Easter Brunch and an Easter Dinner. Reservations are being accepted by email at, or by phone, (800) 273-3314 or (209) 962-4000.

• A Victorian Easter celebration takes place every year in Columbia’s Historic State Park. Put on your Easter finery and join the Easter Parade on Main Street. Registration begins at 11 a.m., and the parade starts at 12:30 p.m. Kids and pets are welcome. Prizes will go to the fanciest and best dressed.

Two days before Easter, Nelson’s Candy Kitchen boils 2,000 eggs in large copper kettles. After cooling in water, a few local kids color the eggs. Volunteers hide them early Sunday morning for the egg hunts taking place that afternoon. Bring your Easter baskets, and watch for Thaddeus E. Hare (aka the Easter Bunny) walking through town.

There’s more to experience year-round in the Gold Rush town of Columbia. For details and a list of events see, or call (209) 536-1672.

• How does one tell a topaz from a citrine, or an agate from a garnet? Is a diamond a gemstone, a mineral or both? And how does one determine the difference between pyrite and gold? At Mariposa’s Gem and Mineral Show this weekend, visitors can ask questions and learn fascinating facts about gems, minerals and more.

The show will be held at the California State Mineral and Mining Museum, located at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. Admission is $3 and parking is free. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit for more information, or call (209) 742-7625.

• “Big Band Goes Latin” is the season finale concert with the Columbia College Jazz Series. According to director Rod Harris, two bands will combine to form a 28-piece salsa orchestra. The college vocal jazz quartet will also perform.

The concert takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. in the college Dogwood Theater. Popular Northern California musicians will play mambo, tango, bossa nova, samba and salsa music. Reserved seating tickets are $15 each and available at the college bookstore and Sonora’s Mountain Bookshop. Call (209) 588-5211 for more information.

• National Park Week begins Saturday and lasts through April 27. Yosemite National Park has activities planned all week long to celebrate America’s parks and Earth Day, April 22. You don’t want to miss seeing Yosemite in the springtime.

Storytelling, nature hikes, a bike ride, a photo walk and class, movies and a Junior Ranger Exploration Fair are just a few items on the schedule. Visit the National Park Service website for details:

• Kids fly for free (aged 8-17) at the Mariposa Air Fair and Family Adventure Day on April 26. A pancake breakfast starts the day at 8 a.m. Classic and antique planes will be on display, as well as experimental craft, warbirds and vintage cars.

This event lasts until 3 p.m., and arriving early is encouraged. Admission for adults is only $2; children 10 and younger are free with an adult. Parking is also free. Food and craft vendors will be on site.

The fair will take place at the Mariposa Airport at 5020 Macready Way, located along State Highway 49 North, four miles outside of Mariposa.

• Artists desiring to participate in the Sierra Art Trails Open Studio Tour should send in their applications by May 1. The tour is held each year on the first weekend of October.

During this annual event art studios across Madera and Mariposa counties will be open to visitors, allowing a personal glimpse into the lives and work of Yosemite region artists. Details are available at the website: