Placerville. It’s a name that conjures up images of the prototypical American small town like Smallville or Pleasantville. Formerly known as Hangtown, Placerville is located in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California’s El Dorado County, sandwiched between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
This past weekend, I travelled with my family up to Placerville to attend my parent’s high school reunion. On Friday morning, my sister and I drove up from Berkeley to pick up our parents up from the Sacramento Airport. Edna spotted a lonely airport luggage cart in the parking lot which we commandeered. At the baggage claim there was a neat art installation of luggage stacked all the way to the airport’s high ceilings.
On both Friday and Saturday, we wandered around Placerville and surrounding El Dorado County. I passed by the town earlier on my trip to Desolation Wilderness in the end of 2000, but I just stopped to pick up some gas. We found a lot of interesting places to visit and things to do.
Main Street is downtown Placerville. We passed by numerous antique shops, an old hardware store, some used book shops, and other small boutiques along Main Street. We had never seen so many antique shops before coming to Placerville. Every other shop seemed to be an antique shop, and we visited nearly all of them! I think that antique shopping and auctioning are very popular on the Internet. I’m sure that these shops could make some additional profit by listing their items on eBay!
The Placerville Hardware store was celebrating its 150th year of operation on Saturday. They recreated scenes of what life was like back in 1852 at the heart of the gold rush. Store employees and denizens of Placerville dressed up in period costumes. There were demonstrations of gold prospecting, hay making, and even a bar populated by U.S. Marshalls and the original men in black.
The whole town seemed to be out and about on Main Street watching and participating in the festivities. True Value (or was it Ace Hardware) hired a videographer to take videos of the event, and I spied a press photographer, his CHP Press Pass hanging off his neck. He was outfitted with a Nikon D1X digital camera and was dutifully taking photographs and writing captions.
The main event, a staged robbery of the hardware store, followed a musical hand bell performance and some short speeches by the owners of Placerville Hardware and State Assemblyman, Tim Leslie. The robber, a member of the notorious Sierra Outlaws ran out of the store with a bag of money, exchanging words with a store employee before viciously shooting him (with blanks, of course). He ran past me, but not before grabbing my sister and taking her hostage! A loud and confusing shouting match and gunfight between U.S. Marshalls, other robbers, and a call-girl then ensued. In the end, the call-girl was the only person left standing with the money. I had a bit of trouble understanding who was the bad guy and who was the good guy during the skit, but in the end, it was all good fun.
I typically use Photoshop only to adjust the color balance, levels, and brightness and contrast of an image. The photograph that heads this entry is something that I could have done using a flash and my camera, but with everything happening so quickly, I didn’t have the time to set up the shot. So, I used Photoshop to add a motion blur to the background of the kidnapping scene. It makes for a more visually appealing image, at the expense of photographic reality. You can check out the original image below, as well as an animation of the ficticious kidnapping scene.
On Saturday afternoon, we went wine tasting at a couple of vineyards near Diamond Springs, Fitzpatrick’s and Perry Creek. I last went wine-tasting during my trip to the Russian River in July, 2001.
There was a wedding being held at Fitzpatrick’s later in the day. I bet that vineyards can do very well for themselves hosting weddings and other events. The vineyards that we went to didn’t charge us for wine tasting. I heard that vineyards and wineries up in Sonoma and Napa Valley are starting to charge people to taste their wine! I guess popularity comes with a price, eh?
No, there is another…
After all the reunion events and sightseeing, we left Placerville on Sunday morning. We had an early breakfast at Eppie’s next to the Placerville Inn before heading back to Sacramento Airport to drop our parents off. Afterwards, Edna and I drove back to the Bay Area. On the way to the airport, we saw this minivan with the license plate, “E TOW”. Perhaps there is another Tow family living in Sacramento?!?