‘Americana’ to take spotlight during Labor Day festivities in Old Sacramento

Old Sacramento’s Gold Rush Days will be on hiatus this year due to the drought, but the event will be replaced with a lineup of activities that organizers believe will draw visitors to the historic district over the Labor Day weekend.

“Americana in Old Sacramento” is the theme for four days of entertainment, including educational activities, live music, displays of vintage vehicles, living history performances and rail excursions.

Steve Hammond, president and CEO of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, assured Sacramento City Council members Thursday that this year’s substitute event will be promoted just as Gold Rush Days has been.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau, working with the Old Sacramento Business Association and California State Parks, has organized Gold Rush Days since 2000. But the organizers announced June 28 that they were canceling the event this year due to the drought.

To re-create the 1850s atmosphere, the city covers the streets of Old Sacramento with dirt.

But dampening the streets to keep down dust requires 3,000 gallons of water a day. An additional 100,000 gallons is needed to wash away the dirt at the end of the weekend.

Hammond said the dirt-covered streets are needed for safety, to provide a cushion for actors performing stunts and to keep the temperature down on hot days for farm horses drawing wagons through Old Sacramento.

City Council members said announcement of the cancellation took them by surprise, and they found themselves fielding phone calls from unhappy constituents. They asked city staff members to explore options for continuing the event, leading to Hammond’s presentation during Thursday’s council meeting.

Hammond apologized to the council for failing to communicate the bureau’s intentions to cancel Gold Rush Days. He also assured the council that unless the drought gets worse, Gold Rush Days will return in 2015.

This year, history will be celebrated in a variety of activities provided by the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation. On Aug. 29, Education Day, about 800 students and their chaperones are expected to visit museums in the Old Sacramento area, with the museums offering free admission that day to the student groups, which typically sign up for the event a year in advance.

Living history volunteers in period attire will stroll the streets of the historic district throughout the weekend.

Live music will be featured during the day, including gospel music at 10 a.m. Aug. 31 at Waterfront Park.

During the evenings, the Old Sacramento Business Association has scheduled a beer crawl Aug. 29, a country dance party Aug. 30, and a showing of the classic western movie “Pale Rider” on Aug. 31.

Councilman Steve Hansen said he had been pleasantly surprised to find how much Gold Rush Days meant to his constituents.

“I think you’re back on track,” Hansen told Hammond.

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