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Nevada's Basque Festival

Every year, Elko, Nev., celebrates the state's Basque heritage.

Basque dancers at National Basque Festival, Elko, Nev., image
Photo caption
Basque dancers in Elko, Nev., don festive attire.

It may be a cowboy town, but every year Elko, Nev., 290 miles east of Reno, celebrates those other legendary Nevadans: Basque sheepherders, whose descendants still reside in the state. The National Basque Festival, July 4 through 6 this year, spotlights the culture’s dances, sports, and cuisine.

“Basques come from all over, even Europe,” says Ramon Zugazaga, president of the Elko Basque Club. Weight lifters compete by hefting stones of 250 pounds or more. Kids take part in Riding with the Sheep, while ranch chefs prepare old-country classics. “We cook Spanish rice, paella, and hundreds of pounds of chorizo,” Zugazaga says. It all gets washed down with kalimotxo, a cocktail of red wine, cola, and lemon.

The feasting continues at Toki Ona, known for its aromatic chorizo omelet, and at the Star Hotel, where ample portions of lamb, beef, and fish sizzle next to side dishes such as Basque beans and French bread. “At the Star Hotel during the festival somebody is playing the accordion most of the night,” Zugazaga adds.

Photography by Charlie Ekburg/Sweet Light Photography

This article was first published in July 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.