Basque Picnic draws hundreds from all over

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com May 23, 2014 

Serious faces and card tables filled the O’Banion Building at the Los Banos Fairgrounds on Saturday during a Mus tournament, with dozens trying their hand at a game that relies on skill and luck.

The card game was part of a two-day celebration to commemorate the Los Banos Basque Club’s 50th anniversary. It brought hundreds of people from near and far, including the Basque Country, a region in northern Spain about the size of Delaware.

More than 40 people participated in games of Mus, which is played by using a Spanish deck of cards containing all the usual cards except 8s and 9s.

Winners advanced, while the not-so-lucky ones stood and observed the action - drink in hand.

First and second place winners took home cash prizes, while others enjoyed traditional Basque food.

Mark Muniain

traveled from Modesto to take part in the dinner, dancing and other festivities. “I haven’t been in awhile,” Muniain said. “I wanted to come and check it out because of the history and heritage.”

Seeing the Basque people come together, including the select few with the Delegation of the Basque Country, was something club president Amador Zabalbeascoa felt close to his heart. He said tears came to his eyes when he walked through the hallway of the O’Banion Building and saw the many who attended the opening ceremonies.

“I came to this country in 1970 and it’s something I (left) behind,” he said, “and we are trying to follow the culture by continuing it.”

Julian Zabalbeascoa, son of Amador, traveled from Boston. He said celebrating this year’s event is much different from year’s past.

The 50th celebration called for entertainment to be flown in from the Basque Country, he said.

“Only a few of the members were here when the club began,” Julian said. “So for us to reach our 50th anniversary, that means that the torch has been passed onto all of us, and we are continuing the work that they began and the work entails coming together to celebrate our roots, our passions of our culture.”

The two-day event included entertainment and weight-carrying and wood-chopping competitions.

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