Cake, singers mark new attractions at 53rd annual Basque festival in Los Banos

Young dancers perform at the 2013 Basque Festival and Picnic in Los Banos.
Young dancers perform at the 2013 Basque Festival and Picnic in Los Banos. Los Banos Enterprise

Basque singers and “Gateau Basque” are new to this year’s annual Basque Festival and Picnic Sunday at the Los Banos Fairgrounds.

The festival and picnic event is a longstanding tradition honoring the Basque heritage and population in Los Banos and the Central Valley entering its 53rd year, Mike Etchepare said.

Etchepare, the president of the host Los Banos Basque Club, said the event has been a center of ethnic celebration.

“We have a large Basque population,” Etchepare said. “It’s a good opportunity for all of us to get together and promote our culture.”

The day starts out with a Catholic mass in English and Basque at 10 a.m. in the O’Banion Hall on the fairgrounds.

Lunch is served between 12:30 and 2 p.m., including barbecued lamb chops, lamb stew, beans, bread, cheese, wine and salads. Lunch tickets are purchased at the door, $22 for adults and $12 for children ages 12 and under.

It’s also the first year the Basque picnic will serve the Gateau Basque, or a Basque cake, Etchepare said.

Following lunch, at 2:30 p.m., performances will start. The Los Banos and San Francisco Basque dancers are coming back to perform accompanied by the San Francisco Klika and bertsolari.

New this year is a singing performance by a Basque language class with students ages 3 and up.

The festival will also bring back its weight carrying and tug-of-war competitions, in addition to more music and dance.

“It’s nice to come together to promote our culture, educate our kids on language, custom and dance,” Etchepare said.

Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562