Fort Ross Festival

Yesterday was the annual Fort Ross Festival.   Fort Ross the southernmost Russian fort in California. The area around it still has many Russian settlers and immigrants, and celebrates Russian culture and history.

The event features music, dancing, a borscht contest, vendors, arts and crafts, and a beer garden and multicultural food area.  There were also a few conservation groups on hand, and since it was low tide in the morning when the festival started, there was a group with a telescope so visitors could view the harbor seals hauled out on the rocks below the cliff the fort was situated on.

The fort is in a beautiful location.   Just north of where the Russian River meets the sea, along a rocky coast line fringed with redwoods, I can see the appeal of settling here. 

The fort features several buildings, a chapel, and a windmill (for flour).  A second windmill was on the location at one time, and used to pulverize oak bark for tannin to process otter furs.

the sea-side wall and tower

view of the fort (and chapel back right) from the location of the village

The windmill (one set of blades missing: out for repair)

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to do a second post for the scenic coastal views, and keep this one confined more to the fort portion of the event and park itself.

Of course a lot of the fun at these events for me are the hands on activities.  There were activities for rope making, needle felting, and the two I did, basket weaving and candle-making.  I also enjoyed the borscht contest, because guests got to taste each borscht and vote for their favorite.  I had for a long time avoided borscht, figuring I wouldn't like it, but have also been curious, so this was a wonderful chance for me to explore.  The best part was that I learned I enjoyed borscht, as did Cay, and we've decided to make some at home.

There were a few demonstrations of skills and crafts, and a couple vendors, including these wonderful felted hats:

When speaking to the woman who made these lovely hats, I found out she lives in Petaluma, not to far from me!
Cay was taken by the black powder demonstrations, and has quite a bit of video footage of canon fire and the guns used during the early 1800s.  I went back for more borscht.

The park has a really nice little museum and gift shop near the entrance.  Out the back of the gift shop is a walkway that goes through the redwoods past the village location and to the fort.

looking into the museum from the gift shop

looking through the trees from the walkway to the back of the Visitor's Center

One of the coolest things for me at the fort itself was the windmill.  It's a pretty ingenious piece of work.  The mill is mounted on a huge pole which is dug 10 to 12 feet deep. The end of the pole is charred to prevent rotting in the soil, then a structure is built around it to take the weight of the mill itself, which is far up to accommodate the large blades.  The actual mill portion rests on a small base and a metal bearing, on the main pole, which allows the top portion of the mill to rotate, to face into the wind.

There were a lot of events I missed: some of the games and the dancing, and I only heard the bell ringing at the chapel from a distance.  I admit, a lot of the time I was distracted by the coastal beauty, the harbor seals, and the conservation groups at the event, which always catch my attention.  I'm looking forward to going back next year!