Dirt don’t hurt

With free admission, no one cares if you’re a few nuggets short.

With free admission, no one cares if you’re a few nuggets short.

Gold Rush Days runs Friday, September 3, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, September 4, and Sunday, September 5, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Monday, September 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Old Sacramento, (916) 808-7777, www.sacramentogoldrushdays.com.

Old Sacramento

1000 Front St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 442-7644

You don’t have $300 to spend on Burning Man tickets this year? Have your friends piled their feather boas and camping stoves inside their custom art car and left for the playa without you? Well, cheer up, lonely Labor Day reveler! Thanks to Gold Rush Days, you can enjoy your own brand of dust-covered, low-amenity fun without leaving the city. Admission is free all weekend long, and the city has dumped 200 tons of dirt onto the streets of Old Sacramento just to make sure you get the most realistically gritty experience possible.

Of course, Gold Rush Days doesn’t have bikini babes in sparkly cowboy hats riding hastily constructed roller coasters beneath the desert stars, but what it lacks in edgy creativity and Utilikilts, it more than makes up for in historical verisimilitude. Witness the live pony-express runs, the regularly scheduled “squatters’ riots” or the 1850s-style wedding ceremonies. Watch out for characters like Dale Shinn the Hurdy Gurdy Man; Cheyenne the Appalachian clogger; and James Barrera, trick roper and whip master. Sample some sasparilla and take a ride in a horsedrawn carriage. Hide behind a barrel when the law men start shooting their six-guns, and then amble on over to the SaveMart stage for the Johnny Cash tribute band.

OK, neither SaveMart nor Johnny Cash were technically part of gold-rush-era Sacramento, but we’re pretty sure the Man in Black would choose live gun fights at Gold Rush Days over dancing to techno beats inside a laser-lit star dome. Just sayin’.