New California Days event at Calico Ghost Town wins NACo award, readies for Feb. 18-19

A woman dressed in 1800s attire is seen making rope as a young boy and his parents look on.

Above, California Days eventgoers experience the craft of rope making by the early settlers. Rope makers had to be skilled artisans to produce quality ropes. The entire rope-making process depended on the ability and experience of the rope maker. Although machines gradually replaced skilled rope makers, traditional techniques survived until the late 1800s.

Recognizing the role Calico Ghost Town and its settlers played in the history of California and its economy, the San Bernardino County Regional Parks department launched a new annual California Days event on February 19-20, 2022, to coincide with National California Day celebrated every year on February 22.

An Old-West graphic background with a QR code and the date of February 19-19, 2023 and California Days event title.

This year’s event will be held on Feb. 18-19, 2023.

San Bernardino County Regional Parks Director Beahta Davis said the department wanted the event to acknowledge the history of the early California days through educational displays about California’s history, focusing on mining, the Pony Express, the state flag and the Butterfield Overland Trail through an annual event.

Calico Ghost Town is an Old West silver mining town in Yermo that was established in 1881, but was abandoned in the mid-1890s after silver lost its value. Calico has a rich history of mining and is a state historical landmark. In 2005, the town received a proclamation by the governor recognized as California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.

The rich silver deposits at Calico sparked a boom-town hustle with the height of its population exploding to 1,200 in 1887, offering a schoolhouse, post office, cemetery, its version of a China Town and red-light district with about 22 saloons that sprang up all over town. This bustling industry created a shipping center in the neighboring town of Daggett, which thrived as a hub of activity in the Mojave Desert by 1888.

At the height of its wealth, Calico produced about $87 million in silver and $45 million in borax in more than 500 mines, including the Silver King, Waterloo, Bismark and Maggie Mines.

Walter Knott purchased Calico in the 1950s, architecturally restoring all but five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s and donated the town to the county in 1966. Calico is now operated by the San Bernardino County Regional Parks Department.

A photo of two female representatives from Apollo Silver Mining are seen talking to children and adults with rock samples on a table.

Above, a geologist from an event sponsor, Apollo Silver Corp., a silver mining company funding projects near Calico, explains how silver is found in the rocks near Calico Ghost Town and its modern day uses

Davis said partnering with mining companies for the California Days event added a layer of authenticity for eventgoers to visualize how the town relied on mining in the early days as well as an opportunity to see what mining is like today.  

“The purpose of the special event programming is to provide activities and experiences that submerse park patrons into the history of Calico Ghost Town and the important role its townspeople played. We wanted our eventgoers to relive the early days of Calico and California,” said Davis.

For the department’s effort, this thematic event won an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The award was one of 82 won by San Bernardino County, which won the most 2022 NACo Awards of any other county in the United States.

Shawnita Jones, Park Superintendent of Calico Ghost Town and Mojave Narrows Regional Park, said the history of Calico and the role it played in California’s economy is an important part of local history in the county and was happy to see so many people come out to enjoy the new event.

“I have been with Regional Parks for about 10 years now and thought California Days was the right mix of fun activities and education. Families can come here together and really enjoy a slice of history whether it’s just for the day or a weekend of camping. I love seeing them smiling and having a good time together,” said Jones.

There were plenty of smiles, laughter and excitement prevalent throughout the weekend event with more than 4,300 visitors attending, including 217 camping reservations.

A female park superintendent drives a cart through a crowd of people at Calico Ghost Town.

Shawnita Jones, Park Superintendent of Calico Ghost Town and Mojave Narrows Regional Park navigates through a crowd of visitors at a Calico Ghost Town event.

“I am super excited about the event scheduled on February 18 and 19 this year. I am sure it will be as amazing as last year,” Jones said.

“Working here enables me to see how people enjoy the outdoors. I started with the county in 2012 as a part time General Services Worker II [GSW II] while working another job and attending community college to get my AS in math and science. When I graduated in 2014, I was promoted to a full time GSW II. In 2016, I was promoted to a Park Ranger II, and then in 2019, I was promoted to Park Superintendent.”

Working for Regional Parks affords many opportunities to learn and grow. Come and join our award-winning team at San Bernardino County and you’ll find Opportunity Works Here! Learn more at

For more information about California Days, including the schedule of events and activities, visit