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Doyle Days: Annual Tradition Takes Place Amid Destruction From Beckwourth Complex Fire

It’s been a tough year for Doyle, California, located between Reno and Susanville. The small town has lost 50 of its roughly 450 homes in less than a year due to two separate wildfires, but residents recently got a small break from reality while they celebrated an annual tradition called Doyle Days.

It was an overcast day and smoke filled the air from the Dixie Fire. Flag bearers, classic cars, kids on quads and firefighters took part in a short parade through Doyle. They passed by a few of the homes that were destroyed in the Beckwourth Complex Fire last month, but the atmosphere was filled with laughter, hugs and festivities.

“This is a big thing for us,” Denise Roberts said.

Roberts wore a spiral tie-dye shirt that read “Doyle Strong.” In November, Roberts lost her home in the Laura 2 Fire, and last month, her mother’s house was destroyed in the Beckwourth Complex Fire.

“I’m still crying off and on, but there really is nothing you can do but keep going,” Roberts said.

Roberts said Doyle Days is about relaxing and being in the company of neighbors and friends. She sat in a camping chair and watched dozens of kids go down an inflatable waterslide.

“Listen to these kids. ... Would you know that everything around them burned? They’re kids being kids, and enjoying it, and parents getting a break from all the pressure of what’s happened,” Roberts said.

A young boy with a mullet is holding up a red Folgers plastic coffee container. Inside the container is one adult-sized lizard and three newborn lizards.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
Henry, age 5, showed off the lizards he caught, one of which he raced during Doyle Days, an annual tradition, in Doyle, Calif., on July 31, 2021. For the lizard race, kids were timed on how quickly they could catch a lizard within a circular enclosure.

Doyle Days has occurred annually since the ’80s. There are vendors, music and the volunteer fire department serves up breakfast and lunch to raise money for the station. Children also take part in a lizard race, and they’re timed on how quickly they can catch a lizard within a circular enclosure.

“This is small-town life, it really is,” Roberts said.

The event was canceled last year, like many others due to the pandemic, making the tradition that much more important this year.

View additional photos of Doyle Days and the lizard race by scrolling through the image slideshow at the top of this story.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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