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Grass Valley Hosts 9th Annual St. Piran's Day Saturday, March 9, 2013


By: Gage McKinney

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. February 18, 2013 - Grass Valley invites everyone to become Cornish for a day at its ninth annual celebration recognizing the patron saint of Cornish miners and the heritage of the Cornish in America.

celebration begins Friday evening, March 8, with a pub night sing-along, beginning at 6:30 pm, at Gold Rush Burgers on Mill Street, across from Grass Valley City Hall. Gather around with a pasty and a pint and join the Grass Valley Male Voice Choir in singing popular songs of Cornwall and America. Everyone is welcome to this no host event.

Saturday the jollifications begin at 10:00 am with Town Crier Robert Russell ringing his bell and making a proclamation. After the raising of the U.S. and Cornish flags, contestants will vie in the annual pasty tossing contest.

The mayors of Grass Valley and Nevada City will contend for the Mayors Award. Other contestants will include representatives of service clubs, Cornish descendants and curious on-lookers. Come along, become a contestant and get a St. Piran's Day pin.

The flag-raising and Pasty Toss take place in the City Hall parking lot at Main and South Auburn streets, known as the most Cornish spot in America.

Bring a home-baked pasty to enter the best pasty baker contest. Coffee and snacks will be available for purchase at a Cornish gift fair.

As the tossing pasties are filled with organic dog kibble, bring your leased dog to share the celebration by helping to clean up.

In the afternoon the celebration continues with a Cornish Cream Tea in Wesley Hall at the Grass Valley United Methodist Church—"the church that pasties built." A $15 donation is requested and tickets are available at Book Seller, Briar Patch, Grass Valley Downtown Association and the Grass Valley United Methodist Church.

St. Piran, patron saint of hard-rock miners, is to Cornwall what St. Patrick is to Ireland. He was in fact a 5th century missionary who brought Christianity to the Celtic land in the southwest corner of Britain. In legend he outwitted menacing giants and taught the Cornish to refine tin.

The Cornish flag, which often flies at Grass Valley's City Hall, is called St. Piran's flag.

St. Piran's Day sponsors include the Grass Valley Downtown Association; City of Grass Valley; GV Male Voice Choir; GV United Methodist Church; GV-Bodmin Sister Cities; and California Cornish Cousins.

Who was St. Piran?

St. Piran is the most popular of Cornwall's patron saints and the patron of Cornish miners.

In fact, he was a fifth century Christian missionary who was educated at a monastery in Wales and established a monastery in Ireland. In Cornwall he founded churches, especially on the north coast. He was also active in Brittany.

In legend, St. Piran was captured by the heathen Irish, who tied him to a millstone and rolled it over a cliff into a stormy sea. Immediately, the sea calmed and the millstone floated like a cork, taking the saint across the Celtic Sea to a sandy beach of Cornwall.

The place he landed became known as Perran Beach, and he built a small oratory nearby at Perranzabuloe (meaning St. Piran-in-the-sands). From there he preached and taught the Cornish.

By teaching them to refine tin, he became the patron of tinners and miners. The Cornish flag, known as St. Piran's flag, represent the white tin against the black ore. It also represents purity in a sinful world.

Legends abound of how St. Piran defended the common people of Cornwall. He was known for wiliness. In overcoming oppressing giants or threatening invaders, he would beguile and outwit his adversaries without actually harming them.

St. Piran is to Cornwall what St. Patrick is to Ireland. Before the Reformation, St. Piran's Day in Cornwall was widely celebrated with feasts and drinking. The Cornish expression "drunk as a Perraner" referred to the miners who celebrated their saint's day with abandon.

St. Piran's Day is celebrated in Cornwall every year with a march to the site of the saint's oratory in the sands. Sometimes the saint's life is re-enacted, millstone and all, in a play performed on the dunes.

Around the world Cornish societies from Minnesota to South Australia celebrate St. Piran's Day with a pasty lunch. It's the most important day of the year for flying the Cornish flag.

Grass Valley hosts its annual St. Piran Day celebration on the second Saturday of March. Festivities begin in the morning with a flag raising and pasty tossing contest in the City Hall parking lot, a spot designation as the "most Cornish" in America.

Friday, March 8, 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Pub Night sing-along with no host bar, pasties and food at Gold Rush Burgers, Mill Street (across from City Hall), Grass Valley. Featuring the Grass Valley Male Voice Choir. Free admission. No host food and drinks.

Saturday, 10:00 am

St. Piran’s Day flag raising, Pasty tossing contest at City Hall parking lot, Main & Auburn streets, Grass Valley. Featuring town crier Robert Russell with the GV Male Voice Choir. Mayoral Pasty Tossing Contest. No host coffee and snacks. Cornish gift fair. This is a dog-friendly event. Free admission.

Bring a home-baked pasty Saturday morning for the Pasty Baking Contest.

Saturday, 2:00 or 3:00 pm

Cornish Cream Tea at Grass Valley United Methodist Church. Two seatings. Everyone welcome. $15 donation--tickets available at Book Seller, Briar Patch, Grass Valley Downtown Association or Grass Valley United Methodist Church.


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