Celebrating Basque heritage and tradition that date back hundreds of years the Los Banos Basque Club held its 58th annual picnic at the Los Banos fairground on May 15.

The event was especially welcomed by the hundreds of people in attendance because the picnic had been on hiatus because of Covid since 2019.

Food, drink, dance and a weightlifting endurance contest were highlights of the day-long picnic. A band as well as a dance group from the Bay Area performed.

Amador Zabalbeascoa began the entertainment portion of the event by singing the Basque National Anthem, while Los Banos Basque Club member Richard Wood sang the American National Anthem.

One of the many in attendance was Marguerite Heguy, 90, who was the first dance instructor of the Los Banos Basque Club when it began in 1964.

In the endurance contest, men and women competed in their own divisions to see who could carry as pair of weights the farthest. The event was a reminder of the heavy labor farm families had to endure to survive and thrive.

Women carried 75 pound weights while the men toted 102 pound weights over as great a distance as they could in hopes of winning prize money and bragging rights.

Nicholas Echeveste of Firebaugh carried the weights 450 feet to win the men’s division and $130 in prize money. Kari Houchens of Madera carried the 150 feet to win the women’s division and its $90 prize.

Gene Lieb