Thousands of people attended the annual historical cultural festival at Fort Ross, on the northwestern California Coast, on July 29, 2017.
Fort Ross settlement was founded in the XIX century by Ivan Kuskov from Tot’ma, Vologodskoy region of Russia. From 1808 to 1812, the settlement was not just part of the Russian American Fur Company, but home to the Russians, but to Kashia native Indians, the Alaska natives (Aleuts) and California ranch era people. Fort Ross is currently a California State Park and a national historical monument.
This history is brought to life each year on the last Saturday of July, where costumed volunteers put on vignettes, as they also show the many trades and crafts of the time. Horse and buggy rides, international foods, as well as song & dance of different cultures, including Russian, as well as Kashia, Russian bell ringing, presentations, exhibits fill the fun-for-the-entire family day.
In her interview to TASS, Olga Miller, director of the Renova Fort Ross Foundation, which is the main sponsor of the festival was quoted as saying that “one of the main goals of the event is to showcase the diverse historical heritage of the fort”. “This event”, she said, “presents a unique opportunity for cultural and international exchange”. Miller feels that this event “brings together people and breaks down deep-rooted stereotypes”.
Among the different groups that performed at the festival were the “Slavyanka Chorus” with their rich program of Russian sacred and folk music, the San Francisco Balalaika Ensemble, Russia House Kedry, Kitka, Children’s Dance & Song Ensemble “Zabavushk” and Su Nu Nu Shinal, the Kashia Pomo and Coast Miwok Native Americans from California performing their traditional songs and dances.
When then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a list of potential park closures, and Fort Ross was on the list, Congress of Russian Americans took part in an extensive campaign, involving gathering of names on petitions, not just state-wide and nation-wide, but throughout Latin America, Europe, Australia, where many Russians reside, and who believed that this was indeed a closure of a Russian historical monument and presented letters and petitions to Schwarzenegger against closing the park. It was at this time, also, that Renova Fort Ross Foundation also stepped in, and has been providing support and financial aid to numerous Fort Ross projects ever since.