St Piran’s Day



It is usually a small gathering of 40 people.

Call 530-798-9690 with any questions.


A Cornish and Grass Valley Tradition: Civil Servants compete via Pasty Toss Contest

Rain or Shine

Everyone is Cornish Today!  This is a small gathering.  All are welcome and all will receive ‘Everyone is Cornish Today’ pins.  Medals given for participants.

Saturday,  March 14th, 2020 from 9:30-11:00am

Grass Valley City Hall Parking Lot @ 125 E Main Street, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Photo by 11: eleven photography

Free Event will include:

  • Grass Valley Cornish Choir
  • Pasty Olympics
  • Pasty Making Contest
  • If you bake, bring a home-baked pasty (the real kind) to the judging table by 9:15 to enter the pasty bake-off. Tess’ Kitchen Store will recognize the “Best Overall” and “Best Traditional” pasty with prizes of a gift certificate.
  • Coffee provided by Caroline’s Coffee, cookies by BrewBakers Coffee & Tea House

We are taking applications for the Pasty Contest – both professional and novice bakers apply! Link to Application- download and fill out

Dogs are welcomed and encouraged

2019 awards

 St. Piran’s Award

Champion of Cornish Culture 2019

Presented by the California Cornish Cousins

Kitty Quayle

Party tossing ceremony mediated by

Town Crier Paul Haas

Dog pasties baked by Carol Kinyon

Vice Mayor Ben Aguilar of Grass Valley and David Parker Nevada City Mayor competed- Vice Mayor Ben Aguilar won.

Lt. Paul Rohde from Nevada City Police Department competed against Grass Valley Police Department’s Capt. Steve Johnson.  GVPD Capt Johnson won.

Sam Goodspeed, Division Chief, Nevada City Fire Department competed against Marc Butron, Fire Chief, Grass Valley Fire Department.  Nevada City’s Sam Goodspeed won

Nevada City Manager Catrina Olson won her challenge against Grass Valley City Manager Tim Kiser, before the pasty toss was opened up to members of the community

Best Overall Pasty : Michael Yates


Every year Grass Valley captures some fun with its annual St. Piran’s Day pasty tossing contest. The rain or shine event, which celebrates the Cornish immigrants who settled around the gold mines, is fun for adults, children and especially dogs.

The festivities begin in the City Hall parking lot at Main and Auburn streets on Saturday, March 14th at 9:30 am. The slogan – “Everyone’s Cornish today!”

St. Piran’s Day begins with the bell and call of the Town Crier and raising of the U. S. and Cornish flags. The Grass Valley Male Voice Choir will lead singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Trelawny,” the national anthem of Cornwall. Then pasties will fly.

Mayors Lisa Swarthout of Grass Valley and Reinette Senum of Nevada City will vie in the first heat with hopes of capturing the Mayor’s Trophy. Over the years, Grass Valley’s mayors hold a slight edge in the competition.

Other contestants will follow, including the police chiefs of the two towns, representatives of service clubs, librarians form Nevada County Library branches, Cornish descendants and curious on-lookers of all ages.

Winners will receive prizes and every contestant gets a St. Piran’s Day pin. Bring a leashed dog to help clean up the special tossing pasties, made with organic dog food and healthy ingredients.


If you bake, bring a home-baked pasty (the real kind) to the judging table by 9:15 to enter the pasty bake-off. Tess’ Kitchen Store will award $50 gift certificates for the “Best Overall” and “Best Traditional” pasty.  This year amateurs and also professionals can enter.

St. Piran is to Cornwall what St. Patrick is to Ireland. In history, he brought Christianity to the Celtic land in the 5th century. In legend, he outwitted menacing giants and taught the Cornish to refine tin. The Cornish flag, a white cross on a black field, is called “St. Piran’s flag.”

The Cornish, once the world’s preeminent hard-rock miners, came from their homeland with the know-how to tap the deep veins when gold in quartz was discovered near Grass Valley. The Americans called them “Cousin Jacks,” and Cornish women became “Cousin Jennies.”

Lyonnesse is the legendary site of Arthur’s last battle and a lost land fated to sink into the sea. It’s usually located along the Cornish coast between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, the southwestern tip of Britain.

Photo credits: John Hart, The Union newspaper

Elias Funez, The Union newspaper

Jason Scallin, 11: eleven photography

More information

Who was St. Piran?

St. Piran is the most popular of Cornwall’s patron saints and the patron of Cornish miners.

In fact, he was a fifth century Christian missionary who was educated at a monastery in Wales and established a monastery in Ireland. In Cornwall he founded churches, especially on the north coast. He was also active in Brittany.

In legend, St. Piran was captured by the heathen Irish, who tied him to a millstone and rolled it over a cliff into a stormy sea. Immediately, the sea calmed and the millstone floated like a cork, taking the saint across the Celtic Sea to a sandy beach of Cornwall.

The place he landed became known as Perran Beach, and he built a small oratory nearby at Perranzabuloe (St. Piran-in-the-sands). From there he preached and taught the Cornish.

By teaching them to refine tin, he became the patron of tinners and miners. The Cornish flag, known as St. Piran’s flag, represent the white tin against the black ore. It also represents purity in a sinful world.

Legends abound of how St. Piran defended the common people of Cornwall. He was known for wiliness. In overcoming oppressing giants or threatening invaders, he would beguile and outwit his adversaries without actually harming them.

St. Piran is to Cornwall what St. Patrick is to Ireland. Before the Reformation, St. Piran’s Day in Cornwall was widely celebrated with feasts and drinking. The Cornish expression “drunk as a Perraner” referred to the miners who celebrated their saint’s day with unbridled enthusiasm.

St. Piran’s Day is celebrated in Cornwall every year with a march to the site of the saint’s oratory in the sands. Sometimes the saints life is re-enacted, millstone and all, in a play performed on the dunes.

Around the world Cornish societies from Minnesota to South Australia celebrate St. Piran’s Day with a pasty lunch. It’s the most important day of the year for flying the Cornish flag.

The Most Cornish Spot In America

Grass Valley’s Corner Main & Auburn:

“The Most Cornish Spot in America”


by Gage McKinney


The corner southeast corner of Main and Auburn streets in Grass Valley (including the City Hall parking lot) may be the most Cornish spot in America.


On March 14th Grass Valley will kick off its St. Piran’s Day celebration with a flag raising ceremony near the prominent corner, followed by the “Pasty Olympics,” a series of games involving the Cornish staple. But the spot had a Cornish flavor long before pasties flew as shot puts.


The corner was the home for about 80 years of the Wisconsin Hotel, a local institution dating back to Gold Rush times and a very Cornish establishment.


Its name beckoned to the hundreds and even thousands of Cornish people who migrated to the Gold Country. Before the rush of 1849, many of these Cornish exercised their mining prowess among the zinc and iron mines of southwestern Wisconsin. Hundreds of them came west when they heard of gold, including 700 from the town of Mineral Point, WI, alone.


The hotel arose with the Gold Rush as a wooden structure on the corner and passed through several owners – including Thomas, Gray & Jefferie – with common Cornish names. In September 1855 a devastating fire demolished much of the town and consumed the Wisconsin. In all Grass Valley lost 300 buildings, valued at over $200,000.


The Wisconsin rebuilt to become Grass Valley’s finest hotel. With its brink walls and iron shutters and doors, it was a defining example of Gold Rush architecture. It had 40 guest rooms, featuring marble-topped tables and dressers. It had a second floor dining room and balcony that looked over main street; a billiards room; and a100-foot hardwood bar. It rivaled the Holbrooke Hotel.


A Cornishman named William Mitchell purchased the Wisconsin in 1862 with the proceeds of some successful mining near Placerville. He and his wife, Elizabeth, and their children operated the hotel for over 60 years.


The guest registers of the Wisconsin read like a Cornish census. The hotel hosted mining men and their families from Cornwall and America with distinctive names like Trerise, Polkinghorn, Buzza, Curnow and Trelawny. Many Cornish miners also boarded at the Wisconsin.


One of the most famous boarders was John Coad, who directed the town band in the 1860s. The band often played on the hotel balcony, entertaining guests in the second story dining room. Coad composed one of the carols still sung by the Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir.


Cornish Carols were introduced to a wide audience by the Thomas brothers’ Silver Cornet Band when they played a carol concert from the balcony of the Wisconsin in 1875. People of all backgrounds were taken by the Christmas songs and the local Carol Choir began singing on the streets of Grass Valley soon after. The town counts Cornish carols among its most treasured traditions.


The Wisconsin Hotel also supported the Cornish wrestling tournaments that added to Grass Valley’s fame in the 19th century. The tournaments were held in a ring that sat 600 spectators. Located on Stewart Street near Main, the wrestling ring was outside the rear door of the hotel and convenient to the bar.


Wrestlers would come from as far as Montana, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to compete in the tournament, held on July 4th. The winner walked away with $100 in gold. Cornishmen, of course, dominated the tournament. They suffered a shock one year when an Irishman beat all comers and became the champ.


The Mitchell family sold the Wisconsin Hotel property to Standard Oil and the building was demolished in 1931 to make room for a gasoline station. Years later the property was acquired for the City Hall and public parking.


Twenty-five years ago, led by Mayor Frank Knuckey, the town dedicated a stamp mill to the memory of the Cousin Jacks miners who worked the local mines. Naturally, they erected the mill at Main and Auburn. Mayor Knuckey himself had learned to mine working beside Cornishmen in the Empire Mine.


Cornish Jacks Pasties established their shop across the street.


Then in 1998, when Grass Valley officially twinned with Bodmin, Cornwall, the sister-city relationship was solemnized with the raising of flags and singing of national anthems near the former site of the Wisconsin Hotel. The mayor of Bodmin wore his town’s mail, a piece of decorative armor.


On Saturday, March 12th, the tradition of the most Cornish spot in America continues.


Cornish enthusiasts in other parts of the country might despite Grass Valley’s claim. People in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, might argue that their Pendarius State Park is the most Cornish spot. There are several restore miners cottages on the site.


On Michigan’s Upper Peninsula people might point to the Methodist Church that opens once a year for a reunion of Cornish descendants beside the long-closed Central mine, arguing that that’s the most Cornish spot.


Grass Valley can boast that it has the best claim. In Nevada County, wrote historian Dr. A. C. Todd, “Cornwall is never far away.” It’s especially close at the corner of Main and Auburn.


Gage McKinney