Fifty-year Groveland resident Opal Berg has been named Grand Marshal of the 2023 49er Festival. A pillar of the Groveland community since 1969, Opal, now in her 92nd year and living in Sonora, will lead the annual Main Street Parade in style in David Bealby’s 2005 Jaguar Convertible, long-time friend Joan Gisler, who nominated Opal for the honor.
Gisler, owner of Ranch Revived, grew up in Groveland and has known Opal most of her life, saying, “Opal is a long-standing member of this community. The family greatly contributed to the necessity of the Groveland area.”
Opal and her husband Ken Berg (who passed away in 2015) came to Groveland in 1969 to purchase a liquor license and start their own business. Thwarted by laws that do not allow transfers of liquor licenses between counties, locals at the Hotel Charlotte bemoaned the need for a grocery store in Groveland. So Opal and Ken opened a grocery store instead, living in a small apartment above the store.
In 1974, the Bergs built a larger store at the corner of Hwy 120 and Ferretti Road. During construction, locals offered to store inventory from the old store in their homes until construction was finished; then, they helped Opal and Ken stock the shelves of the new store.
When the announcement hit social media, the post went viral with a tremendous outpouring of congratulations and support from her beloved community. Many were surprised and delighted to find Opal responding to their messages of congratulations on Facebook and other social media sites.
Opal Berg joined the Rebekahs, Lions Club, and Southside Seniors from whom she helped raise funds for the Senior Center, as well as offering her endless supply of energy to assist many other local clubs and charities. She was voted an Business Woman of the Year by her local chapter of American Business Women Association.
The 33rd 49er Festival & Chili Cook-Off is being held on September 16, 2023 in Groveland, CA, the historic northern gateway to Yosemite National Park. Starting at 9 am with a Main Street Parade in Downtown Groveland, the Festival continues in Mary Laveroni Park with a chili cook-off, live music from Captain Kitten’s Chicken Fried Cats, a Kids Adventure Zone with electric train rides, an Obstacle Course bounce house, and lots of games. Admission is FREE. Tickets are being sold for two fabulous raffles: the Festival Raffle, benefitting Pine Cone Performers choral group, includes a $500 cash grand prize and two dozen other valuable prizes from local businesses. The Grand Raffle, benefitting Groveland Trail Heads, is for an eBike from Trail Less Traveled Bike & Gear…a $1600 value.
The 49er Festival is hosted by the Yosemite | Highway 120 Chamber of Commerce, and is managed and organized by volunteers from the local community and area businesses. Festival Partners Visit Tuolumne County and Mechanics Bank are joined by other area businesses to sponsor the Festival, which now also benefits several local nonprofits. Originally called “Old West Days,” the event has been taking place in historic downtown Groveland for more than 40 years. The Yosemite | Hwy 120 Chamber of Commerce is operated by volunteers representing local businesses and community-focused nonprofit organizations.