FOLSOM – Getting “juiced” in Folsom is an easy do this Saturday when the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park powers up its Electricity Fair.
One of the oldest hydroelectric facilities in the world — since 1895 — the Folsom park intends to “re-energize the public about Powerhouse,” said a news release from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Calling Saturday’s event “an interactive family celebration,” the fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature children’s activities, guided tours of the powerhouse and docent-led introductions to new exhibits and displays in the visitor center.
The Folsom Powerhouse sent a charge of electricity down its transmission lines to Sacramento on the morning of July 13, 1895, and the first of its kind event was officially celebrated two months later on California Admission Day, Sept. 9. The celebration was dubbed a “Grand Electric Carnival.”
“People attended from all over to witness the brilliantly lighted streets, the State Capitol outlined with glowing lights and the electric trolley cars pulling floats with lights displayed in various arrangements all powered by the electricity being sent from Folsom Powerhouse,” the statement said.
Saturday’s Electricity Fair at the visitor center will provide an overview of the historical site while the science of electricity and magnetism will be shown in various interactive displays. The state’s energy future and California’s water use will also be explored.
Admission to the park and the event is free. Hot dogs, hamburgers, kettle corn, drinks and other snack items will be available from onsite food vendors. Friends of Lakes Natoma and Folsom will serve free ice cream at noon. Parking is available at the city lots on Scott Street, the statement announced.
The Electricity Fair is presented by a partnership of California State Parks, Friends of the Folsom Powerhouse and Friends of Lakes Folsom and Natoma.
State Park volunteer docent at the Powerhousee, Paul Money, gave Mountain Democrat staff an impromptu private tour Wednesday afternoon. Retired after 30 years with PG&E, Money is a powerhouse of information matched equally by his enthusiasm for his subject.
With great pride, Money explained that the experiment in July of 1895 represented “the birth of the electricity industry. And the Folsom Powerhouse is the plant that started it all.”
Horatio Gates Livermore, an argonaut from Maine, arrived in California in 1850. Based on some family experience with hydro-mechanics, that is using the force of falling water to power milling machinery, Livermore dreamed of creating an entire water-powered industry along a several-mile stretch of the American River near Folsom.
How Livermore acquired more than two miles of riverfront property, blasted the riverbed to a depth of 100 feet and contracted for 300,000 “man days” of prison labor to construct his project is a story best told by Paul Money or any of the other state park experts.
By 1906, Livermore’s sons had sold the enterprise to what would become Pacific Gas and Electric Co. PG&E operated the powerhouse for the next 46 years, eventually yielding to the power of Folsom Dam.
See and hear the rest of the story at the Folsom Powerhouse Historic State Park Electricity Fair tomorrow.