The stories are still fresh in our minds. Every time the sirens blare and we hear aircraft overhead, stomachs churn. The Butte Fire still looms large in many Calaveras residents’ heads, but how people are forging ahead is what makes the county so cool.

On Saturday, one of Calaveras County’s nicest family friendly gatherings takes place as Mountain Ranch Day in the Park welcomes us all to Mountain Ranch Community Park for all kinds of festivities. It truly is a daylong event, as you can start the morning with pancakes hot off the grill, have lunch during the event, and then chow down on a terrific barbecued dinner at 3 p.m.

The 38th annual event is as cool as the summer can be warm. Proceeds from the party support the park that has grown over the years to include a shaded basketball court (that doubles as a dance floor for the always-grooving Mountain Ranch crowd), nice picnic tables nestled under shade trees, a ballfield, play structures for the kids and even a kitchen. The community has provided both the elbow grease and the money to keep this park going and their work is a testament to how communities rally when they’re challenged.

The pancakes are flipped and served by members of the Calaveras High School FFA chapter from 7 to 10 a.m. and the students are sharing some of their proceeds from the breakfast with park officials. Lunch is offered by 4-H members from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

At noon, the Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus of Calaveras County sings the national anthem; I’ll wager that goosebumps will erupt on everyone’s arms because these ladies really put their hearts into their songs. Some of them lost their homes to the Butte Fire, too, and they found solace in weekly rehearsals with their fellow songstresses.

Music continues with the Skylings performing. The band is a reincarnation of Bill Walsh and the Rangers, if you were tuned into that act’s shows and sounds.

One of the coolest parts of Day in the Park is back this year. You see, during the Butte Fire, the firefight was staged from the ballfield and all of those fire trucks took a toll on the turf. No state or federal entity sent any financial support to help repair the diamond; again, the residents of this incredible rural community forged ahead and saved their ballfield.

Well, now that the field is back, so is the car show that finds classic rides wheeled onto the field for the day. I’ve stepped onto the grass and been shocked to see such a wide variety of vehicles represented at this show. Organizer Jerry Byrd asks that entries preregister with him by calling 754-3095.

Crafters sell treasures and more throughout the event and a variety of service groups will be set up under the walnut trees “for your browsing and shopping pleasure,” says Barbara Pollard, who helps spread the word about the event. If you sell crafty goodies and would like a space, call 754-5155.

There will be a horseshoe tournament staged, too, just sign up when you get to the park at the intersection of Mountain Ranch and Whiskey Slide roads. Activities and games are presented and a bounce house keeps the kids going strong. And who can resist pitching at the target at the dunk tank to drop someone into the drink?

A barbecued beef dinner caps the festivities at 3 p.m. for $20. This is a fine meal for a fine cause, as proceeds also support the park.

To say Mountain Ranch residents are a sturdy bunch is an understatement; they stood shoulder to shoulder supporting each other as flames threatened the very heart of town and today they’re coming back with renewed excitement and energy. Some people who lost their homes left, but the remaining citizens are making their ways back into homes. If you can’t make it to the fun on Saturday but would still like to support the park, send a contribution to Mountain Ranch Community Park, P.O. Box 165, Mountain Ranch, CA 95246.

To finish Saturday’s fun, head to Murphys Community Park for the 13th annual Hoedown for Habitat. This Habitat for Humanity Calaveras fundraiser features Alice’s Saloon, a no-host bar dedicated to a stalwart volunteer, and a barbecued chicken and pork rib dinner with pasta primavera, Caesar salad, coleslaw and dessert. There are drawings and a silent auction staged that offer cool goodies that will help the nonprofit that builds homes for families continue its mission.

The Rusty Rockers perform live music for the party and dancing is sure to break out as the boys play favorite rock ’n’ roll hits. It’s a fun party for a wonderful cause.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for ages 6 to 12 in advance by calling 754-5331. Children ages 5 and under get in free. At the event, adult tickets are $40 and youths are $15.

From reveling in a day at a cool community park to helping families get into homes, it’s a weekend of community support. Make sure you’re having as much fun as you can while doing your part.

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