Susanville’s Kirmess Festival

Methodist Church
The aftermath of the August 4, 1915 fire.

One of the more disastrous fires in Susanville occurred in August 1915, when a large portion of the block containing the Emerson Hotel, the Hyer House Hotel and the Methodist Church were destroyed. The losses were heavy, none of the buildings were fully covered by insurance.

Members of the Methodist Church were determined to rebuild their church that was constructed in 1901. The skeletal walls were deemed fit for re-use. While insurance covered a large percentage of costs to rebuild, more funds were needed. It was decided to hold a Kirmess Festival. Those not familiar with the term, is of Dutch origins.  While it has several meanings one is that it involves an outdoor fair/festival for charitable causes, usually affiliated with a church.

In early March 1916, members of the church announced a four day Kirmess festival to raise funds to rebuild their church. The kirmess was scheduled for March 28-31. On the first day, it took on air of Mardi Gras with a parade that included the majority of the community. Entertainment was held every night at the Orpheum Theater. On Thursday night Guy P. Johnson won the election and was crowned Kirmess King. A good time was had by all and nearly $1,000 was raised for the Methodist Church.

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