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Experience Sonora, California
Each step down Washington Street in Historic Sonora is a step rich in history. The street was an Indian trail until the Gold Rush transformed it into a mining camp, with canvas tents and colorful flags flying from the brush houses built by the Mexicans. Imagine it with throngs of miners walking down the street, gambling tables made of rough-hewn wooden planks set up in front of each establishment.

These temporary structures were eventually replaced by wooden buildings, most of which burned in the Great Sonora Fire of 1854. The town was then quickly rebuilt, largely with brick.

Many historic buildings from those times remain. The Gunn House, now a hotel, was once the office of the Sonora Herald newspaper, established in 1854. A few blocks west of Washington Street on Bradford sits what was once the county jail, now a museum, with a few jail cells still intact. A tiny park near the museum has early gold mining equipment—an arastra, a stamping machine, and a Pelton water wheel.


The City Hotel building, once an 1850s elegant hotel, remains, as does, across the street, the Sonora Inn, at the turn into the 20th century considered one of the most elegant hotels in the state.

A block west of Washington Street is the Tuolumne County Courthouse, built in 1898 of distinctive yellow pressed brick. It is still used today.

At the north end of the street is the well-known Red Church, built in 1860. Across the street is the Morgan Mansion. The Fire Museum includes a small park with a hand fire cart.

Sonora has many places to eat, from coffee houses to formal restaurants offering Mexican (of course), Chinese, Thai, pasta and Italian, and Barbecue and steak.

Informal places include sandwich shops, including bagel sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, and light fare at various coffee houses, and ice cream. One sandwich & ice cream store has a historic saloon bar and the downstairs bookstore has the look of an underground quartz mine.

There is also shopping, with gift shops and antique stores carrying many unusual items.

What's New: A sandwich and ice cream store, the Sonora Creamery, has moved from East Sonora to the south end of Washington Street in downtown Sonora.

Video of the 2012 Amgen Tour Bicycle Race (Sonora to
Clovis leg) includes shots from the Mother Lode Roundup.
Gold Rush History
In its Gold Rush heydey Sonora was the most ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan, and tolerant town in the Sierra. It was the only town with a significant number of women.

The town's existence resulted from conflicts that Mexican miners from the province of Sonora had with American miners when they tried to mine near Jamestown. The Mexican miners eventually moved a few miles up Woods Creek—where Americans thought there was no gold—and found a rich supply of the metal.

It was originally known as Sonorian Camp, and miners from Chile, Peru, Argentina, France, and other countries came as well as Mexicans. The Mexicans and South Americans, unlike the Americans, brought their women. Later women from France and elsewhere, hearing of the large population of women, came here too.

Weekends in Sonora were a wild scene, as miners from camps all around came to town for supplies and recreation. There was much gambling, drinking with the most expensive spirits, bull fights, even fights between bulls and Grizzly bears. Many costly items were on sale that miners could pay for with the gold they had recovered with only a few hours of work.

In late 1849 a town government was established with the name of Sonora, with a Town Council who were Americans but sympathetic to the foreigners. The town organization allowed the construction of a hospital, needed because large numbers of the Mexican miners were suffering from scurvy. The population was about 5,000.

In June 1850 the new California legislature's ill-conceived Foreign Miners Tax took effect, levying a $20 per month tax on all foreign miners, far beyond the ability of the average miner to pay. Overnight the population of the town decreased by four fifths. The town became dangerous, with many people attacked in their tents while sleeping or on the roads, by marauders who were thought to be Mexicans.

Sonora's town leaders hired a well-known attorney to challenge the law as unconstitutional, but this was unsuccessful. Eventually, however, the tax was repealed, then later followed by a tax at a much lower rate.

After the placer gold from the streams was mostly played out, Sonora continued as a gold-mining region because of its substantial underground "pocket" mines, in which highly concentrated gold could be found in the quartz. This was before the technology existed to extract gold from low-grade quartz and gold rock. Sonora's pocket mines and its status as the county seat and business center of the Southern Mines allowed it to survive while many other mining camps became ghost towns.

For more on the history of the town see History of Sonora and Life at Sonora 1849-52





Events in Sonora
January 24, 2016
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MotherLode Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. 
The Motherlode Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee presents a celebration at 2:30 pm at the High School Auditorium with...
Details

January 27, 2016
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Brush and Cork "Doodlely Paint Wine Not Wednesday" Party. 
Doodle and Paint, drink wine, play classical music (or maybe rock and roll), and enjoy an evening of fun creative play...
Details

February 5, 2016–February 28, 2016
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"Talk Radio" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
Funny and moving, offbeat, and totally entrancing. "A compelling work that draws you straight into the heart of its...
Details

February 7, 2016
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Annual Super Bowl Breakfast at Mother Lode Fairgrounds. 
The 31st annual Frank Salel Super Bowl Sunday Scholarship Breakfast will be held at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in the...
Details

February 13, 2016
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2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

February 14, 2016
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Brush and Cork "Valentine’s LOVE Dinner". 
Our Annual Valentine’s LOVE Dinner and Brush & Cork’s 2nd Anniversary painting party! We just LOVE to have fun!!...
Details

February 21, 2016
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St. James Concert Series in Sonora. 
Pianist Jason Sia will be performing at 3 pm at the "Red Church". Tickets are available by calling or at the Mountain...
Details

February 27, 2016–March 24, 2016
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"My Fair Lady" at Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora. 
A brilliant score and unforgettable characters tell the triumphant story of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Can...
Details

March 11, 2016–March 13, 2016
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Sonora Celtic Faire. 
30 Year Anniversary of the oldest & largest Celtic Faire on the West Coast. Get tickets for one day or all three....
Details

March 12, 2016–March 13, 2016
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Sonora Celtic Faire. 
30 Year Anniversary of the oldest largest Celtic Faire on the West Coast. Celtic Music, Clans, Highland Games, Celtic...
Details

March 12, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

March 13, 2016
.
Sonora Celtic Faire. 
Last day of the annual Celtic Faire, the oldest & largest Celtic Faire on the West Coast. Celtic Music, Clans, Highland...
Details

April 8, 2016–May 8, 2016
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"Cowgirls the Musical" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
"A joyous slapstick hoe-down! "Cowgirls" wrings every drop of moonshine humor from its crossbreeding of classical and...
Details

April 9, 2016–April 10, 2016
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35th Annual Home & Garden Show in Sonora. 
Each year, the fairgrounds are packed with those in search of home improvement ideas, professional services and new...
Details

April 9, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

April 24, 2016
.
St. James Concert Series in Sonora. 
Trio180 will be performing a 3 pm. Includes Piano, cello and Violin. Tickets are available by calling, or at the...
Details

May 7, 2016–May 8, 2016
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Mother Lode Round–Up Parade Rodeo by Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse. 
At 10:00 am on Saturday, the Posse will feature one of the longest parades in California in historic downtown Sonora....
Details

May 20, 2016–June 12, 2016
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"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at Sierra Repertory Theatre. 
Performances at the East Sonora venue. Stay after the show for "Talk Back" night on May 26. Season Tickets as well as...
Details

May 21, 2016
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Scott Kirby's Main Street Souvenirs. 
On Saturday, May 21, 2016 the Sonora Chamber of Commerce will present pianist, composer and visual artist Scott Kirby...
Details

May 22, 2016
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St. James Concert Series in Sonora. 
The Golden Bough will be performing at the "Red Church" at 3 pm. Instruments will include the violin, harp and guitar....
Details

June 3, 2016–June 26, 2016
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"Betty's Summer Vacation" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
"Incest, dismemberment, and a laugh track as a Greek chorus...theater, praise be, can still go where other forms of art...
Details

June 11, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

July 8, 2016–July 10, 2016
.
Annual Mother Lode Fair in Sonora. 
From noon to midnight enjoy the special Exhibits, Music Entertainment, Midway Carnival Rides, Motorized Sports, Junior...
Details

July 9, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

July 22, 2016–August 28, 2016
.
"Beehive: The 60s Musical Sensation" at Sierra Repertory Theatre. 
Performances at the East Sonora venue. Stay after the show for "Talk Back" night on Aug. 4.
Details

August 13, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

September 1, 2016
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"Kate" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
Starring Janis Stevens as Kate Hepburn;, and written by local award winning writer Rick Foster. "Actress doesn't just...
Details

September 10, 2016
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2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Performances at the East Sonora venue. Stay after the show for "Talk Back" night on Dec. 1
Details

September 23, 2016–October 16, 2016
.
"Cyrano" at Sierra Repertory Theatre. 
Performances at the East Sonora venue. Stay after the show for "Talk Back "night on Oct. 6.
Details

October 8, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

October 13, 2016–October 30, 2016
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"Dog Sees God Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
"The characters - teenage and reckless - are both genuine, sympathetic and unquestionably cruel. Growing more...
Details

November 11, 2016–December 18, 2016
.
"A Christmas Story" at Sierra Repertory Theatre. 
Performances at the East Sonora venue. Stay after the show for "Talk Back" night on Dec. 1
Details

November 12, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

November 25, 2016
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33rd Annual Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade. 
Starts at 5:30 pm promptly, rain or shine! The spirit of Christmas will fill the streets as brightly lit floats, autos,...
Details

November 25, 2016–December 18, 2016
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"Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits Vol. 1" at Stage 3 Theatre. 
In this long-running Off-Broadway hit musical revue, Broadway's greatest musical legends meet Broadway's greatest...
Details

December 10, 2016
.
2nd Saturday Art Night in Sonora. 
Now in it's 6th year, from 5 to 9 pm in historic downtown Sonora. Look for banners up and down Washington Street. This...
Details

(Events are courtesy of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau)
Live Theatre
Live theatre has been a part of Sonora since its earliest days. Sonora today has two theatre companies—Sonora Repertory Theatre and Stage 3 Theatre.