Sierra State Parks Foundation’s ‘Empty Museum Party’ fills the bill |

Sierra State Parks Foundation’s ‘Empty Museum Party’ fills the bill

Amy Edgett
Sierra State Parks Foundation Board members (from left) Rosie Smith, Kym Fabel and Lolly Kupec celebrated during the Empty Museum Party at Donner Memorial State Park, site of the new visitor center.
Photos by Amy Edgett / Sierra Sun |

TRUCKEE, Calif. — On the 150th anniversary of the nation’s first state park, Yosemite Valley in 1864, the Sierra State Parks Foundation threw one heck of a hoo hah: the Empty Museum Party fundraising event.

Signature sponsors, John and Gina Biondi of the Native Sons of the Golden West, joined with local luminaries, organizations and countless volunteers to host a fundraiser Wild, Wild, West style to support the new (yet empty) Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center.

The State Park interpretive team gave a peek into upcoming exhibits, including the movie short “Donner Memorial State Park: A legacy Continues.”

Perhaps the most moving speakers were members of the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestors inhabited the area thousands of years before the white man’s arrival.

Elder JoAnn Nevers told her family’s tale: her father was born at Martis Creek. While her family was working the white fish spawn, they witnessed the struggling Donner Party and “tried to help best they could.”

“It was a sight to see,” noted Nevers of the tribe’s astonishment encountering white folks for the first time. She spoke of the importance of correcting misinformation about the tribe and working together to develop the Visitor Center’s exhibits.

Washoe Elder Melba Rakow offered a blessing in her native tongue. Rakow is glad the museum staff will present Washoe history as “the people” see it. She explained for a long time the people weren’t allowed to tell their story and praised the fact there is no more fighting — and she praised the good food attendees would share together.

The evening’s festivities included the Truckee Regulators, costume contest and square dancing with caller Bill Sliver and the Truckee Squares.

To learn more or donate to the ongoing fundraising campaign visit

The SSPF nonprofit organization was founded in 1968 to provide critically needed financial and professional support to the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region state parks for education, interpretation, restoration and cultural and environmental preservation consistent with the mission of California State Parks, according to the website.

Find a Facebook photo gallery of the Empty Museum Party here.

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