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Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Due to public concerns related to attending large gatherings, the Yosemite Highway 120 Chamber of Commerce board of directors has voted to cancel the 2021 49er Festival. In lieu of the traditional Main Street parade and Festival activities in Lower Mary Laveroni Park, the town of Groveland is turning its full attention to honoring US Army Specialist and Olympic Marksman Sagen Maddalena, a Groveland native who was granted home leave to be the Festival’s Grand Marshall.

“We’re organizing Sagen Maddalena’s Homecoming Tour to focus entirely on her remarkable achievements and service to our country,” said Bob Turney, president of the chamber. “By lining up our Festival sponsors to host Sagen at their establishments, our community will enjoy unique opportunities in smaller, more personal settings to meet Sagen, hear her remarkable story, and honor her service.

“Some of the popular Festival attractions, like the open-air market vendors, will still be happening on Saturday, September 18 while Sagen is making appearances at local businesses,” said Turney. “They’ll be dispersed into mini open-air markets in convenient and easily-accessed locations up and down Main Street. Other elements of the traditional 49er Festival, like the Raffle prize draws, will be incorporated into Sagen’s Homecoming Tour.”

Turney added that the Chamber of Commerce is hoping to engage local residents, clubs, organizations, and other member businesses to participate in “decking the town with red, white, & blue” to honor Sagen and all Americans who serve our country. “We hope to recreate the 4th of July, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day all wrapped up into an amazing four days. We may be a small town but there’s more passion and community spirit here than you’ll see anywhere in the country.”

The Yosemite | Highway 120 Chamber of Commerce will soon publish a complete list of activities, events, and Groveland area locations for Sagen’s Homecoming the weekend of September 17-20.

“Cancelling the 49er Festival was one of the most difficult decisions I have faced. I’ve served on the Planning Committee and performed at the Festival for the past seven years, and it is a very personal commitment,” said Turney. “The 49er Festival is a highly popular regional event, and it’s always our goal to give the community the very best and safest Festival possible, full of fabulous activities, like the chili cook-off, the petting zoo, and the archery arcade. As hosts of those activities began to question their participation, or pull out due to COVID concerns, we chose to cancel the festival rather than not delivering on all the anticipated fun. You can bet that we’re already talking about how to make the 2022 Festival a total blow-out.”

For the past thirty years, a team of local business people and residents have volunteered hundreds of hours of their personal time to organize Groveland’s annual 49er Festival. Together, they consistently provide our community and our guests with a memorable day out. In 2020, the Festival was forced to go Virtual and now, in 2021, with cancellation of the traditional festival, we want to thank every single person who makes the 49er Festival a Must-Attend event. As 49er Festival spokesman Hot Chili Charlie would say, “With a bit o’ faith, hope, and a whole lotta grit, we’ll be back in 2022, Pardners!”

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