A Sonora band gets a Utah gig that will celebrate a mighty achievement in 1869

Black Irish Band

The Black Irish Band, based in Sonora, will travel to Utah to mark the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The organizers of the May 10-12 event at Promontory Summit put the folk musicians on the bill because they have recorded several songs about railroad history.

“They wanted stuff that talked about the railroad workers themselves,” band member Patrick Karnahan said by phone. Among the songs are tributes to the Chinese and Irish people who did much of the heavy lifting.

The band will play all three days at the event. About 50,000 people are expected.

The Transcontinental Railroad ran from Sacramento to Omaha. It connected with earlier rail lines to make coast-to-coast trips possible for people and freight.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the 1862 bill that authorized the work. Crews with the Central Pacific Railroad laid track east from California. The Union Pacific Railroad built west from Nebraska. They met on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, where the final Golden Spike was driven.

Modesto ties into this. The city was established by the Central Pacific along a north-south line in 1870, a year after the Transcontinental route. This line continues to have heavy freight traffic under Union Pacific ownership.

The Black Irish Band has been around for about 30 years, playing a mix of Celtic, Italian and other folk music.

Curious about the band’s name? The term “Black Irish” often refers to people from Ireland with black hair and slightly darker skin than the norm there. One theory is that Spanish sailors spent time on the island a few centuries back and mingled with the locals.

Gregori kids can act

Seven theater students at Gregori High School will go to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, this summer. Their performances at a statewide contest in Upland, San Bernardino County, qualified them for the June 24-29 event.

Elena Ramirez and Blake Herringten will compete in duet acting. Elizabeth Doll and Ramirez qualified in monologues. Performing in solo musical will be Morgan McKay, Phillip (Seth) Bondi, Brianna Mendez and Tallulah Swensen. Their teacher is Nancy Maxon.

The students will hold an April 24 dinner to raise money for the trip. The $15 cost includes a pasta bar, salad, cake, beverages and performances . The dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. at in the multipurpose room at Gregori, 3701 Pirrone Road.

And finally ...

Western Valley Insurance, based in Turlock, received the 2018 Agency of the Year Award from Capital Insurance Group. CIG has a network of independent agencies in five western states.

Western Valley got the honor as it celebrates its 50th year in business. It has branches in Los Banos and Crescent City and provides home, auto, life, health, commercial and agricultural insurance.

“We are fortunate to have a great leadership team, the best employees and most of all the best clients in the world,” President Thad Phillips said in a news release.

Names of Note recognizes people and organizations for their contribution to their communities. Submit items to