New England Basque Club to Host North American Basque Convention


Poster for New England Basque festival

The New England Basque Club, based in Connecticut, is hosting the NABO summer convention for the first time. Representatives from Basque clubs across the U.S. and Canada will come to New London for the festivities on Friday and Saturday, August 26 and 27.

A crew will row a trainera, or Basque fishing boat, down the Thames river and dock next to the City Pier, to kick off Saturday’s events at 8 a.m. Visitors will have an opportunity to row in the trainera.

Basque government officials, local club representatives and possibly the mayor of New London are expected to join the opening ceremony at noon, which is expected to include raising the ikurriña and dancing the aurresku.

“We’re hoping to provide the people on the West Coast a little exposure to the East,” said New England Basque Club president Ander Caballero.

Representatives from Basque clubs will participate in the all-day meeting of the North American Basque Organizations on Friday. A mus tournament will be held Saturday, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Another highlight for the Saturday festivities is an exhibition of herri kirolak (rural sports). The club has a team that will perform the following sports: harri jasotzea (stone lifting), aizkolaritza (wood chopping), lokotx biltzea (corn cob racing), txinga (weight carrying) , sokatira (tug-of-war) and ingude altxatzea (anvil lifting).

Paella, txistorra and bokata/sandwiches are on the menu for lunch Saturday, plus an open bar with sagardoa, wine and beer and soft drinks. The West Coast Basque-American band Amerikanuak will play in the afternoon.

History of the New England Club

Caballero explained that the core of the club originally started as a group of former jai alai players. Three jai alai courts opened up in Connecticut after legislators approved the playing of professional jai alai and pari-mutual betting in the early 1970s as a way to raise state revenues. The biggest court was in Milford, but there were also courts in Bridgeport and Hartford. Professional jai alai players from the Basque Country came to play and the betting raised millions of dollars for the state. But the last court, in Milford, closed in 2001. Connecticut Amateur Jai Alai in Berlin is now the only place to play jai alai in Connecticut. Read more about jai alai in Connecticut.

Today, the New England club is known for its Basque sports team. The group of athletes, which includes Riki Lasa, Juan Mari Aramendi and Patxi Gandiaga, has performed at several Basque celebrations.