Friday, May 20, 2016

Preston Castle Foundation Events for 2016

Historical Tours
Saturdays through September 3rd, and the 2nd and 4th Thursdays, June through August, 10 am to 1 pm
Come to Ione and enjoy an informative historical tour of the magnificent Preston Castle and surrounding grounds. The strikingly beautiful Romanesque style Preston Castle, on a hill in Ione, was actually the administration building for the Preston School of Industry, the first major attempt in California at rehabilitating, instead of just imprisoning, young offenders. Opened in 1894, the Preston School of Industry became a leader in the juvenile prison reform movement by giving convicted boys a real chance at life by educating them not only in academics, but in all of the useful trades of the time. Closed in 1960, when the Preston Youth Authority moved into a new administration building down the hill, the Preston Castle was left to deteriorate due to weather, vandalism, and general neglect. It now serves as a vacant, but vitally important landmark for Ione, Amador County, and the Motherlode. It is a California State Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
This year we are introducing self-guided tours, via your smartphone, so you can tour the Castle at your own pace. Also, a virtual tour will be offered for our guests with difficulty climbing stairs.
Tours: Guided - $15, $10 ages 12 and under; Self-Guided and Virtual - $10, $5 ages 12 and under; all tours - free under 5

Photographer’s Days
Sunday, June 5, Noon to 4 pm,
Sunday, September 11, 4 pm to 8 pm
On Photographer’s Day you can roam the castle on a self-guided tour. Visitors are allowed four hours to explore the non-restricted areas of the castle. This gives you the time you need to set up shots without rushing to keep up the pace of our normal informative tours. Come to one, two, or all three – you will never run out of cool shots. Note the dates are on Sunday, and the September date includes twilight/evening light. $40 per person. Limited to 100 tickets each day. Buy your tickets early as these always sell out.

Amador Arts TGIF Concert
Friday, June 10, 6 pm to 8 pm
2016 will be the 18th year of Amador Arts Council’s TGIF Free Summer Concerts featuring talented bands in various beautiful venues around our county. Take advantage of the opportunity to listen to some great music in the shadow of the majestic Preston Castle.

The Groom Has Cold Feet:
Murder Mystery Dinner Party at the Castle
Friday and Saturday, August 12th and 13th, 6 pm to 9 pm
When the reviled Albert Webster turns up murdered the morning of his wedding to local sweetheart Kayla May Blossom, there’s no shortage of suspects. Luckily, there’s also no shortage of town gossips, each with her own theory acted out in hilarious slow-mo fashion for the audience to see! Could it have been saloon girl Darleen, the last one to see Albert and the girl he dumped for Kayla May? Was it Virgil, the reluctant best man and ex-boyfriend of Kayla May? Maybe it was lonely Harley, who snuffed out Albert to steal his bride? How about Hazel, the about-to-be-evicted mother of the bride? It’s going to take all of Sheriff Tickle’s investigative skills, along with his sidekick daughter Sarah and extra help from the audience, to solve this animated mystery.
Enjoy dinner in the Preston Castle Courtyard and be part of the action as events unfold around you. Observe, ask questions, and use your super sleuth skills to figure out “who done it?”
A no host bar will have a nice selection of drinks available for purchase.
Limited to 100 tickets, each night. Get yours now! Tickets: $45, available online at Call 209-256-3623 for more information and/or tickets.

Wine Tasting & Tour
Saturday, September 10, 3 - 6 pm
Preston Castle, Palm Drive, Ione
Taste the fine wines of Amador County and experience the history of the majestic Preston Castle. Attendees will sample fine wines, poured by 15 different wineries, from commemorative Preston Castle wine glasses.
Sip a glass of wine, enjoy a variety of gourmet hors d'oeuvres, and listen to live music on the patio where the food will be served, and in the basement of the Castle where the wineries will be pouring.
Last year’s wineries included: Bella Grace, Bray, Clos du Lac, Drytown, Karmere, Nine Gables, Sera Fina, Sobon, Story, Tanis, Terra d’Oro, TKC, Turley, Vino Noceto, and Wine Tree Farm.
This is our 12th annual Wine Tasting and Tour. It continues to be one of Amador County's premier wine events, and is always a sellout, so get your tickets now! Tickets: $40. Tickets are available at Clark’s Corner, or online at Call 209-256-3623 for more information and/or tickets.

ParaCon at the Castle
September 16, 17
Castle Spirits hosts Preston Castle Foundation’s Second Annual Benefit Paranormal Conference. Castle Spirits is a paranormal investigation team that has served as the Preston Castle's overnight paranormal docents for the past six years. All proceeds from this event will go towards the preservation and rehabilitation of the Preston Castle.
Three packages are available:
- The Visitation: $75; ParaCon all day Saturday, September 17, 10 am to 6 pm. with numerous guest speakers and workshops.
- The Apparition: $100; ParaCon all day Saturday, Sept. 17, and a 2+ hour investigation of the Castle on Saturday night.
- The Full Possession: $125; includes a Meet and Greet from 6 pm to 8 pm Friday evening, Sept. 16, in the Preston Castle Courtyard, ParaCon at the Castle all day Saturday, Sept. 17, and a 2+ hour investigation of the Castle on Saturday night. We will have up to 3 different investigation times Sat. night, with a maximum of 30 people per time. Buy your tickets according to which time you want for your investigation.
You will receive a 10% discount off of the above prices if you buy your tickets before July 1.
The Guest Speakers are a Who’s Who of the paranormal world. See website for additional information and tickets:

Preston Castle Halloween Haunt
Friday, Oct. 14, Saturday, Oct. 15, Friday, Oct. 21, Saturday, Oct. 22, Friday, Oct. 28, Saturday, Oct. 29, starting at 6:30 pm
The event you've been waiting for, Halloween 2016 at the magnificent, eerie, scary, Preston Castle!
Featured on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, come experience Northern California's only REAL Haunted House! The Preston Castle will be having special tours the three weekends before Halloween, October 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th, and 29th.
This is a fun "scare" tour and not a historical tour of the entire Castle. This year's Haunt will be bigger and better, and you will see some new areas of the Castle this year.
We will have vendors with a variety of food options, and drinks, popcorn, and other munchies, as well as some really great T-Shirts and other merchandise, available for purchase.  

Olde Tyme Christmas
Saturday, December 10th, 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday, December 11th, 10 am to 2 pm
Travel back to Victorian times at the beautiful Preston Castle and find lots of interesting arts, crafts, jewelry, baked goods, and other gift items while listening to Christmas Carols. Also, Santa will be available for your wish lists.
For the last time this year, you may take a tour of the historic Preston Castle.

Ongoing: Overnight Ghost Tours
Thanks to our partnership with an experienced Paranormal Research Group, the Preston Castle Foundation is excited to offer opportunities for visitors to spend the night in the Preston Castle.
Now you can have the opportunity to spend a night in this truly haunted Castle with a small number of other ghost hunters.
You will have access to three floors of the Castle throughout the night with only your flashlight and paranormal investigation gear along for comfort.
Experiences at the castle have included EVP, humming, whispers, touching, channeling, and seeing and recording orbs and apparitions. There have been no harmful events and no one has been hurt during these overnight events.
Numerous Paranormal research groups have investigated this location and report that it is one of the most active sites they have had the pleasure to experience. You will also have the chance to learn paranormal investigation techniques if you wish to do so.
Every person venturing through the castle will have a docent with them to insure their safety throughout the evening.
Tickets are $100 per person, limited to 15 guests each night. Investigations typically start at 7 pm and last until 4 am, when everyone leaves the Castle. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reliving the Old West: The Kit Carson Mountain Man Wagon Train Stops in Sutter Creek

By Sarah Spinetta

As if a time machine had transported wagons and horses from the 1800s, the virtual dial was set for Amador County, and history was re-lived on April 28-May 1, 2016 as the Kit Carson Mountain Men of Amador County re-enacted a true-to-history wagon train for Days of 49. For the past 75 years, this historic group has taken significant part in many old country western experiences, has done vast historic research, and are very well-versed in their stories of the ways they have relived the Old West.

Those stories - the ones that bedrock their group - are derived from 1840's American frontiersman Christopher "Kit" Carson, who at the age 16 left his home in Missouri in hopes of becoming a fur trapper and mountain man in the West. Truly a "Jack of All Trades", in addition to being a fur trapper, mountain man and wilderness guide, he was also an American Army officer who fought in the War of 1812, as well as the Mexican-American Wars...first as a scout and courier, then eventually became General of Fort Garland and American Indian agent.

The Kit Carson Mountain Men of Amador County reenact the Old West in many events, such as the wagon train that recently went from the Shenandoah Valley to Jackson in 20 authentic horse-drawn covered wagons. Initially, this group of men who were called to preserve the traditions of early American fur traders referred to themselves as the “Whiskerinos.” In 1940, they changed their name to the Kit Carson Mountain Men.

Current Mountain Man President John Queirolo has been a member of the group since 1970. “Around 1844, Carson and Fremont came through and then in later years, the same Mountain Men came through the Sierras on wagon trains during the Gold Rush because they knew the passes. To get across the mountains, like in Kirkwood, they actually cut wood and laid it down like a wooden trail to get over the passes," Queirolo said.

“They laid trees, branches and any wood they could find to make their trail so that they could cross the mountains, a technique they learned from the Mormons. Carson and Fremont would go back to the Grover Hot Springs every year to stay warm, then go out to help people travel. They started off with almost 100 horses and plenty of supplies, but when they got to Sutter’s Fort, they were down to less than 40.” When the Mountain Men got to Sutter’s Fort, their buckskins were all tattered and rotten and Sutter took them in, gave them shelter, new horses and everything else they needed.
John Queirolo
Many celebrities have visited the Mountain Men in Amador County. The list includes Andy Griffith, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, John Ford, the Queen of England, Ken Curtis and more. “While Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California, a local horseman Harold Cummins gave Reagan a spotted Appaloosa. They renamed the horse “Amador” in honor of the Mountain Men. Reagan was also a member of the Mountain Men and rode Amador in parades throughout the region, including the annual Kit Carson Days parade in Jackson,” Queirolo said. The mountain men then rode their horses in the parade behind Reagan and Queirolo was given Amador’s saddle.

The Queen of England, after reading a 1983 magazine article about the Mountain Men, asked to see Sutter’s Fort and the Mountain Men. John Queirolo was in charge of the Queen’s visit and the organization of the Mountain Men to be her honor guard at Sutter’s Fort after an FBI agent was sent to the club by request of President Ronald Reagan, on behalf of the Queen of England.

Quierolo, like many others at the event, sported a traditional hat, bandana, buckskin clothes from head to toe and an old western 8-inch knife on his holster. “It’s my watermelon-cutting knife,” Queirolo joked. “At the end of the trail, we always split open a watermelon and share it. We had a great 10+ hour ride on the horses in the parade and the wagon train this year; it is great to be on the horses and teaching people about Kit Carson and his men.” Also, some wild mustangs have been saved and put on their wagon trains. “We also would like to thank our sponsors for helping make this possible,” Quierolo concluded. “The Kit Carson Mountain Men are trying to keep the traditions of the old westerners alive.”

John Queirolo and the KCMM are recruiting new members, and they would like to invite you to join and experience the rich history of the 1800’s. They are also always looking for volunteers for the wagon train. The wagon train is usually a Fall event held in September, but was rescheudled due to the Butte Fire. The Mountain Men like doing it as a Spring event and plan to keep doing it that way, so it will continue to be held in the Spring.

For more information, or how to join the Mountain Men of Amador County, visit: Below is a YouTube video interview of John Quierolo:

Copyright © 2016 by Sarah Spinetta. Published by permission of the author.