Debbie Croft: Magic and music come to foothills

February 22, 2013 

This weekend, two special events will provide great reasons to visit the foothills.

As part of its Winter Magic series, the Groveland Hotel and Cellar Door Restaurant will feature magician John Gardenier on stage tonight.

The one comment consistently heard after Gardenier's show is: "How did he do that?"

Gardenier was about 10 years old when his brother showed him a trick with a Rubik's cube. Amazed, he was determined to figure it out. After a while he deciphered that trick and worked at figuring out others.

He's been performing professionally for six or seven years, and still enjoys watching the reactions from his audience. At times there's applause. Other times, stunned silence.

Gardenier is a regular at the Bay Area's California Magic Dinner Theater. Gerry Griffin, owner and host, has known him for more than a decade.

"John started doing magic up close at the dinner tables," Griffin said. "Soon after, he was performing on stage as the opening act, and then became one of our headliners. He is a favorite of ours, but most importantly, of our audiences."

A magic trick can be learned with a few hours of practice, but mastering the trick takes years. Gardenier is constantly analyzing what he does, always working at improving timing and presentation.

"I don't do prop magic," Gardenier said in a recent interview. "With that people assume the equipment does all the work."

Instead Gardenier uses everyday objects: playing cards, coins, ropes and scarves. He makes objects disappear, then reappear, or causes objects to change shape.

This magician puts the question on the table: Is it slight of hand or slight of mind? You just might have to see for yourself.

The magic begins at 8:30 p.m. Dinner seating starts at 7 p.m. A cover charge of $10 does not include dinner. Space is limited. Call (800) 273-3314 for reservations, or email

Sound of cabin fever

Life tends to slow down as the weather turns frosty. As for foothills' musicians, with storms blowing through dumping rain and snow, some are catching a bit of cabin fever.

"We noticed things sort of lag around here in the winter, so we held a Winterfest last year," Glenn Franklin said. "It was a great success."

And they're doing it again. The second annual Cousin Jack Winterfest will be held Saturday. Doors open at 11 a.m. at Building A of the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, a mile south of town on Highway 49.

Music begins at noon and lasts until 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and are available at Cousin Jack's Music Store, 5031 Highway 140 in downtown Mariposa.

When Jack Franklin passed away 10 years ago, his wife and son, Glenn Franklin, instituted a music foundation in his memory. Its aim is to promote music education among Mariposa's young people. In 10 years, several thousand dollars have been raised for young musicians to get scholarships and private lessons on instruments, and for a no-cost lending library of instruments for kids who cannot afford to purchase their own.

Area musicians have twice collaborated on a musical project they call "Sounds of the Foothills," volumes 1 and 2. All proceeds from these CDs go to the foundation.

As for the lineup of bands playing Saturday, Madera Bill, Girls on Fire, The Adam Burns Band, Brent Schroeder, Joseppi, Good Medicine, Jespersons, The Mountain Men, Jean Butterfield, Colorado Road, DeWitt and Franklin, Wild Horses and Electric Blue (with Tim Hagar) will take their turns on stage.

If you like folk music in all its variations, Mariposa is the place to be this weekend.

For more information about the Winterfest or the music foundation, contact Franklin at (209) 966-6271, or send an email to

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

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