Sweet's Mill, A Brief History

Interviews by Evo Bluestein with excerpts from Virgil's Last Party edited by Mayne Smith


 
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The annual festivals and cultural celebrations known as Sweet's Mill are the development of the folk music and dance gatherings hosted by Virgil and Edith Byxbe at a 240 acre logging camp known as Sweet's Mill in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Auberry, east of Fresno, CA. It had been a sawmill owned by the Sweet family until 1921. The Byxbes bought it in 1951.

The pond and lodge at Sweet's Mill, ca.1964, before the lodge burned down.

"I had a children's camp from about 1951 to 1954 and the Fresno Folk Music Club had campouts there for about four or five years." Virgil Byxbe recollected. (Virgil died at the age of 72 in January, 1992).

Virgil Byxbe ca. 1974 (photo EZ Smith)

 "When I was a boy Mainer's Mountaineers were on the radio and they were very popular. My dad was a square dancer. This was in Long Beach, Cailfornia. I heard a lot of that music because it was the pop music of the time. I like black music a lot and used to tune into The Gospel Train here in Fresno to hear the real thing. They'd broadcast from L.A.

When the folk club folded I continued and gradually began enlarging so there was more than just oldtimey. That's when I started using the name Sweet's Mill because I wanted a distinction from the previous camps.

We went to the Berkeley Folk Festivals and the San Diego Folk Festivals. They were going on during the same years we started (early 60s). Then we organized the
Fresno Folklore Society."


Balloon sculpture across the pond.

 

 

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