Elko Basque Festival is Back for 2021


The jota contest at the Elko picnic is a traditional event.

The Elko Basque Club was the first Basque club to decide to hold its festival this summer. The National Basque Festival, usually a three-day event in Elko on Fourth of July weekend, will only be a two-day festival this year, and most of the festival events will be held at the Elko Basque clubhouse.

Last year’s festival was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.

The festival kick-off is typically held downtown on Friday night, but has been moved to Saturday at the clubhouse. The annual parade in the center of town has been cancelled. “Saturday will feel different,” said Teresa Franzoia.

But the 5K run (7 a.m.) and the golf tournament at Ruby View Golf Course (8 a.m.) will still be held. And players from different Basque communities will compete in handball games at the court at City Park on Idaho Street both days. Players from Elko, Boise and San Francisco will play at 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday.

The traditional show of Basque dancing, strength competitions and food which used to take place at the fairgrounds will now be held at the clubhouse. A dance with Jean Flesher’s band Amerikanuak, a popular Basque-American band, will be held in the evening, and city-sponsored fireworks will take place nearby.

“The clubhouse is the perfect place to see the fireworks,” said Franzoia. The clubhouse is located at 1601 Flagview Dr.

Sunday’s activities remain the same. The sheepherders bread contest takes place at 10 a.m., Basque mass follows at 11 a.m., with lunch at noon and dancing and games in the afternoon. The traditional jota contests and bread auctions will be part of the festivities.

“The dancers are gearing up and buying gerrikos (waist sashes) and abarkak (leather shoes),” said Franzoia, who is from Elko and currently runs the gift shop at Boise’s Basque Museum.

Other clubs that will be holding their picnics this year include SoCal Basque Club in Chino, Calif. and the Reno, Nev. club. The Boise club is holding just a small picnic for its members. The Gooding, Idaho picnic and the Buffalo, Wyoming picnics are scheduled. For dates and details, see our events page.