Remembering Madelyn Helling in Nevada City

Cathy Wilcox-Barnes spoke about Madelyn

About 100 locals gathered in Nevada City on Saturday morning to remember beloved local Madelyn Helling, who passed away at age 95 in March, and to dedicate a new historical monument.

The group — including a “who’s who” of community leaders, volunteers, and longtime residents — dedicated the monument and kiosk that memorializes Nevada County’s railroad history. It is located on the grounds of the original train depot site —(AKA Clamper’s Square) between the northbound Highway 20 off-ramp and Railroad Avenue.

We recorded a heartfelt tribute to Madelyn, president emeritus of the Nevada County Railroad Museum, from her friend and longtime local Cathy Wilcox-Barnes (above).

Others spoke including John Christensen (a tireless volunteer at the Railroad Museum), Duane Strawser, Bill Falconi, Daniel Ketchum, David “Sparky” Parker and Nevada City Mayor Erin Minett, among others. Former City Manager Beryl Robinson, a local legend, also was there.

Our county library is named after Madelyn. We often enjoyed visiting with her — including our lunches together at the New Moon Cafe — and have been proud donors to the Railroad Museum, a delightful venue that celebrates our community’s “sense of place.”

The Human Library: Where you check out people instead of books

“With all the violence and conflict in the world, it’s refreshing to know that people from all different demographics are able to sit down together around the world to have an open conversation,” according to

“That’s what Ronni Abergel, 42, has achieved since launching the Human Library in Copenhagen in 2000. Just as you would at a library, you can check out a ‘book’ on a certain topic for an allotted period of time. The only difference is that the ‘book’ is actually a person who you can have a conversation with — and learn from.

“I figured that if we could make people sit down with a group attached to a certain stigma they don’t like or even know about for that matter, we could diminish violence,” Abergel told

“The type of books you can borrow range from someone who is transgender, deaf, blind, obese or homeless to a person with autism or even a refugee. In the 16 years since its inception, Abergel brought the concept to more than 70 countries, including the U.S.”

The rest of the article is here.

Nevada City Winery’s longtime winemaker Mark Foster is retiring

Mark Foster, the longtime winemaker of Nevada City Winery is retiring, Sierra Foothills Report and Sierra FoodWineArt magazine has learned.

The job for a new winemaker has been posted, and the new hire will be the fourth in the winery’s history.

We have enjoyed knowing Mark over the years. He is a dean of winemaking in the region.

Mark joined Nevada City Winery’s team in time for the ‘92 crush. “Wine is the perfect blend of art and science,” he has said. But like most winemakers, Mark enjoys a cold bear (Czechoslavakian pilsner) on a crush day, as our magazine has reported. Mark has a master’s degree in Enology from UC Davis.


Thirty years together – from Bodega to Baltimore

Thirty years ago today we were married at St. Theresa of Avila Church in Bodega, California. The white, wooden church with a steeple sits on a hilltop above the small, coastal town. Ansel Adams made the church the subject of a black-and-white photograph in 1953, and we have a copy hung on the living room wall.

Today we’re celebrating our anniversary at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, of all places. Our “room with a view” – on the 16th floor of this glamorous high rise – has a stunning vista of Baltimore Harbor.

Much of the land around us has been redeveloped, with a new Whole Foods Market; this stunning 22-story hotel (where we saw the Boston Red Sox gathering in the lobby last night before an Orioles game); and a waterfront headquarters for sports retailer Under Armour. (Workers get to ride a ferry across the harbor to work).

We are here to visit our son as he finishes his freshman year at Johns Hopkins University. We’ll celebrate together and fly home together.

It’s been a fun trip so far: We’ve walked around, visited some of the city landmarks (Fort McHenry is home to the “Star Spangled Banner”) and enjoyed some good meals (including fresh Maryland crab).

We joked that Baltimore was not the first place we predicted we’d be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, but life is one “excellent adventure.”

Supervisors award $500,000 in last-mile broadband grants

“With the Board of Supervisors’ award today of $500,000 to four local internet service providers (ISP), broadband service will be offered to 440 households to support distance learning, remote working, and tele-medicine. Each of the four projects offers a unique and innovative approach to expanding broadband in areas challenged by both remote geography and low population density. 

“The County’s Broadband Work Group worked with the Sierra Business Council to solicit applications from internet service providers and presented the award recommendations for the Board’s consideration. The funded ISPs include Northern Sierra Broadband, in the amount of $120,000; Nevada County Fiber, Inc., in the amount of $113,000; Exwire, Inc., dba Oasis Broadband, in the amount $62,000; and Spiral Fiber, Inc., in the amount of $205,000. 

“’Connecting our community to the internet is job number one. What I like about these innovative projects is that they are local, affordable, and take a community serving approach. This is what the ‘Last-Mile’ grants are about – serving areas that would be unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding,’ said Board Chair Dan Miller. 

“’Last-mile’ refers to the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s home. The “Last-Mile” grant program, which the Board established in 2019, is funded with Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) dollars intended to promote economic development.”

—By Caleb Dardick for the County of Nevada County

Nevada County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to better serve the public during COVID-19

“Beginning on May 3, 2021, the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Office will take appointments for all in person/counter services on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 8:00 am – 3:30 pm on a first come, first served basis,” the Office announced.

“At this time, we cannot offer any same day appointments or walk ins. Please call or email ahead of time to schedule your appointment.

“The expansion of services by appointment is part of a phased approach to re-opening the Clerk-Recorder Office, in order to both better serve the public during COVID-19 and maintain staff and public safety. Our services include, but are not limited to, marriages and ceremonies, recordation of documents, requests for vital records, and research time at public computers.”

The rest of the article is here.

Remembering Steve Giardina

Steve Giardina, a good friend and one of our area’s most gracious, energetic and enterprising residents, died this week after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. We are heartbroken and our love goes out to Steve’s wife, Cindy, and their children, Jessica and Eric.

Shannon and I first met Steve around 2015 after he and Cindy bought the former Cirinos restaurant building on Broad Street in downtown Nevada City, and they lovingly restored it into a craft cocktail lounge with a “golden era” theme.

“We enjoyed some great lounges in larger cities serving craft cocktails and wanted to bring the same experience to our community,” Steve told me for a 2016 cover story in our FoodWineArt magazine. “The combination of location, building, craft cocktail expertise, hospitality and community won us over.”

The Golden Era has been a labor of love for Steve and his family, and our town has benefited. During the building’s extensive renovation, I’d often stop for an impromptu visit, and Steve (who personified the word “ebullient”) would enthusiastically describe one of his latest “finds.” These ranged from the handsome wooden bar that was made in the mid-1890’s in Chicago to entertaining relics, such as an “Old Maid” card game from the late 1800s.

A passion for history

When opened, the Giardina’s lounge harkened back to the Gold Rush era, with a decorative gold tin ceiling, chandelier, Edison lights, and polished wooden floors — all a testament to Steve’s passion for history. A fireplace glows in one seating area, Gold Rush-era artwork hangs on the walls, and a fresh rose adorns each table. Cindy and Jessica’s talents are showcased in the inviting interior design and decor.

As a tribute to the Giardina’s efforts, the Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission erected a plaque at the site of the Golden Era lounge. It reads: ”309 Broad St. was landmarked by the Commission in 2017 and has served as a saloon or bar since the Gold Rush era. It was masterfully renovated by Steve and Cindy Giardina, who reopened it as the Golden Era lounge. It has many historical features.”

Eric and a friend created the Golden Era’s bar program. They worked for Future Bars of San Francisco, known for stellar bars such as Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and Devil’s Acre. Esquire has named Bourbon & Branch one of America’s best bars. 

These master “mixologists” created the Golden Era’s “Miner’s Punch” (pisco, lime, pineapple syrup, Dubonnet and bitters); “Nevada City Swizzle” (rum, pisco, lime, raspberry syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters and seltzer); and “Grass Valley Girl” (gin, lime, orange syrup, cucumber, seltzer and orange bitters) cocktails, among others.

Thanks to the Giardina’s passion and hard work, the Golden Era has become a premier destination in the Sierra Foothills for handcrafted cocktails, regional wines, award-winning local craft beers, along with delicious appetizers. 

The lounge also has helped reinvigorate our historic downtown. During the pandemic, the Golden Era has remained open as an outdoor venue, with a heated patio, entertainment, and socially distanced tables, another testament to the Giardina’s imaginative nature.

A “people person”

Steve was a dedicated father, husband and friend. He also epitomized the “people person.”

I lost my dad in 2007, but Steve helped fill that role with some sound advice. He also offered valuable career advice to our son, when he was accepted at Johns Hopkins University as a biomedical engineering major last year.

Steve’s career was in healthcare technology. He was responsible for and participated in numerous new product innovations in nuclear medicine and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) over his 20 years in the field. More recently, Steve was responsible for the establishment of over 100 wound healing centers nationally with the firm Healogics. 

In 2017, Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, he went into remission. Eight months later Steve’s cancer metastasized, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was told that additional surgery wasn’t an option.

Steve started to look for ways to ease the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, and he discovered a medical approach that included medical cannabis. 

Telling Steve’s story

“The Hill Witches of Nevada County” is a documentary that tells Steve’s story. It explores the emotional roller coaster of cancer; Steve’s evolution from abstaining from to embracing medical cannabis; and the guidance he and his doctor received from a specialist in cannabis cultivation.

“Our dear friend passed away today,” filmmaker Rick Beaty wrote earlier this week. “I know he was holding on for the film’s premiere but as Cindy says, the Rainbow was too inviting. 

“Our documentary has now become a tribute to Steve. He was extremely proud of the film and wanted everyone to see it, not because of his involvement but because of the message. In honor of Steve, we will continue with the premiere’s showing as a celebration of his life.”

The documentary, titled “A Journey of Healing,” will premier this Sunday at 4 p.m., online via Zoom, in an event sponsored by The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

Rest in peace, Steve. Thank you for your contributions as a family man, entrepreneur and friend. We will miss you but remember you always.

(Photo: Kial James for Sierra FoodWineArt magazine)