City of Sonora officials are replacing the annual Spring Festival this year with a new event called the Old West Fest that will be held on May 18 to coincide with the first day of the Sonora Certified Farmers Market.

The event will include music, entertainment, vendors and exhibits themed around the city’s history that dates back to the days of the Gold Rush in the late 1840s and 1850s.

Rachelle Kellogg, the city’s community development director, said the decision to discontinue the Spring Festival was made primarily due to unreliable weather on the final Saturday in April, when the event was typically held each year in downtown Sonora.

“We decided after last year’s Spring Festival that we needed to do something different because the weather was always a problem,” she said.

The new Old West Fest will be held a week after the Mother Lode Roundup Parade and on the same day as several other events happening throughout the area, including the Rods to Rails Car Show in Jamestown, the Columbia Diggins at Columbia State Historic Park, and the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp.

Kellogg said the date was set before city staff found out about all of the other events going on that same day because the goal was always for the new event to coincide with the seasonal opening of the reliably popular farmers market, but they’re hoping the wealth of activities will draw more people from outside of the area.

“It’s a new event for us, so we’ll see how it goes on that date,” she said. “We find when there are multiple things going on, it sometimes brings more people up from the valley and other places.”

The Tuolumne County Transit trolley is also planned to be running between Jamestown, downtown Sonora and Columbia that day to shuttle people to and from the different events.

Officials said the city’s new event is not to be confused with the Mark Twain Wild West Fest held each year in Angels Camp on the third Saturday in October, which is centered around that city’s celebrated connection to the legendary writer.

“This isn’t competing with that in any way I don’t think,” said Sheala Wilkinson, the city’s special events coordinator.

The Old West Fest will take the place of the Spring Festival as one of three annual special events that the city sponsors in the downtown area, which also includes the Magic of the Night car show on the first Friday in August and Historic Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade on the night after Thanksgiving.

Like the other events, several side streets will be closed for the Old West Fest that will run from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. after the opening of the farmers market at 7:30 a.m.

Wilkinson said they have booked a number of activities, entertainers and attractions that will spread throughout the city, including an old-fashioned apple press, puppet show, ice cream social, games for children, old tractors and other farming equipment that will be on display around Courthouse Square, and live music themed around the early 20th century.

There will also be a window contest to encourage shopkeepers to decorate their storefronts accordingly with the theme of the festival.

“The whole event is incorporating everything from around the early 1900s with games and music and that kind of feel … kind of transforming downtown into that early age,” Wilkinson said.

A stagecoach from Columbia Diggins is also expected to be at the Sonora Opera Hall on the night of May 17 for a showing of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

The Tuolumne County Agricultural Association will also host a food, wine and craft beer tasting event called the Old West Fest Sip n’ Taste from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on May 18 at the Sonora Opera Hall that costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door, with all proceeds going to support the organization’s programs.

Plans for the Old West Fest were developed and organized internally by city staff as part of the city’s special events program. Members of the Sonora City Council were not directly involved.

Officials collaborated with a number of individuals and organizations behind the scenes, including the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau and Sonora Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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