For over five decades, the Basque communities of Nevada have been celebrating their heritage during the National Basque Festival, held in the heart of Elko each year. What started as a local gathering among people of Basque heritage and local cattle ranchers, the annual gathering evolved into a full-blown event in 1964. In the years since, the National Basque Festival has continued to take place on or around the weekend of the Fourth of July not only to celebrate the USA, but also to thank the community for accepting Basques and their heritage so freely.
Although other states have similar festivals to celebrate this fascinating heritage, Elko proudly hosts the National Basque Festival. Typically beginning on a Friday night close to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, all visitors—Basque or not—are welcomed to the Elko Basque Clubhouse for the festival’s opening kickoff. Here, visitors and Bascos alike can get their first glimpse at what’s in store for the weekend’s festivities. Enjoy impressive live dance performances, listen to some traditional Basque music, or even get your hands on some mouthwatering paella or chorizo—a definite must when you’re in this neck of Nevada.
While the opening kickoff is a great way to familiarize yourself with this heartfelt culture, it will intrigue you so much that you wont be able to resist checking out the rest of the weekend’s lineup. Head to the Elko County Fairgrounds to see traditional Basque Dancing—performed by all ages in traditional garb—or enjoy several traditional Basque rural sports competitions like wood chopping, stone lifting, weight carrying or the relay. Visitors can also marvel at other Basque competitions like the Sheepherder’s Bread-Making Contest, and can even participate in a 5K Run/Walk through the heart of Elko, enjoy a parade through the downtown area, or enjoy a traditional Catholic Mass. Best yet, visitors new to this alluring culture cant leave the National Basque Festival without trying one of the most traditional libations: the famed Picon Punch.
Cap off the weekend’s festivities by doing what the Basques do: attend the Basque Dance at the Elko Basque Clubhouse. Here, you can get your hands on the famed Picon Punch or Kalimoxoto, dance live musical performance and even try your luck at drinking wine out of a bivy sack. And here’s an insider tip: on the night of the dance, purposely wear all white clothing with the intent of cutting loose and spilling red wine on your clothes. Local Bascos consider wine-stained clothes a badge of honor, drawing attention to the fact that another successful National Basque Festival in the books.
The National Basque Festival dates are confirmed closer to the event, but is traditionally held during the first weekend of July near the Fourth of July holiday. Be sure to check TravelNevada.com or the Basque Clubhouse’s website for more specific details.