When the iconic Conestoga wagon appears on Spring Street, the countdown to Pioneer Day begins. For Chairman Paul Viborg, Vice Chair Bert Twisselman, committee members and volunteers, the wagon represents many months of work to produce a parade and day of activities to honor our Pioneer heritage. Our 88th annual parade is the best display of antique tractors and wagons (some worthy of a place in the Smithsonian!), harvesters, vintage buggies, and rare farm equipment in the United States. Pioneer Day brings the community together to honor our heritage and pay tribute to the hard-working farmers, ranchers and their families who homesteaded their land, survived the Great Depression and endured for generations. The entire day is free, funded by donations from businesses and citizens of our area. In 1931, the founders of Pioneer Day created a day free of “toil and trouble” and a day to “Leave Your Pocketbook at Home.”
PARADE STARTS AT 10 O’CLOCK SHARP!
Attendees arrive as early as 7 a.m. By 8 a.m., the best shady spots along the parade route are taken, so come early! There are always a few surprises — some with hooves! — in more than 200 entries that include dancing stallions, a saddled Brahma bull, formal units on horseback and teams of horses, mules and livestock tended by dozens of Teamsters and outriders. The community is represented by school marching bands, floats, classic cars, military vehicles, flatbed trucks loaded with kids, kids on bikes, scooters and skateboards.
The Biggest Bean Feed Anywhere!
Larry Eastwood has overseen the bean feed for close to half of the 86-year tradition. This year, David Kudija will take the lead; coordinating the Lions Club to stir the pots and local emergency service personnel to serve the public after the parade. On Friday, Oct. 12, city crews lay the gas lines and set up 12 kettles (six 100-gallon and six 53-gallon), long ago salvaged from a whaling ship.
Long before dawn on Pioneer Day, the kettles are filled with six pounds short of a long ton — 2,240 pounds of ingredients! Imagine 1,200 pounds of beans, 500 pounds of ground beef, 350 onions and 100 green peppers — chopped. Finished with a pinch of seasoning, only 24 pounds of secret spices and a dash (40 pounds!) of salt. Add plenty of water and fire up the burners! Lions Club members stir with giant wooden paddles; constantly from dawn to around noon so the kettle bottom doesn’t scorch. After the parade, the line for a bowl of beans looks long, but goes quick!
Before and After the Parade Downtown
Get ready for some serious cute! The Children’s Pet Show (ages 14 and under) starts at 8 a.m. Pets of all sizes, sorts and breeds are welcome; from pups to ponies, to fur and feathers! Kids in pioneer-themed costumes are welcome to join the Little Cowgirl/Cowboy Contest at 8:30 a.m. at the gazebo. Surely a tough decision for the judges. Don’t miss it. It’s sure to warm your heart!
The historic Carnegie Library opens at noon for history buffs. Of special interest is Paso Robles High School Bearcat Alley and the impressive exhibition on the Salinan Indians. Picnic in the park near the gazebo and enjoy a concert at 12:30 p.m. Bring your horseshoes for the 1 p.m. Horseshoe Pitching Contest near the Carnegie Library. At 1 p.m., men with a “nice growth of facial hair” compete in the Whiskerino Contest at the steps of the Carnegie Library. Much to the men’s delight, the contest is judged by modern-day saloon girls, The Barbary Coast Girls. Speaking of “whiskers,” men, if you’re clean-shaven and aren’t wearing a Smooth Puss badge, chances are you’ll be thrown in the Hoosegow! Badges are for sale at the announcer stands and from people walking the parade route.
The Pioneer Museum and PR Events Center
After the parade, the Pioneer Museum on Riverside Avenue will display more tractors, farm equipment, wagons, old gas engines and vintage cars. Of special interest is the Jeansville Pump, Geneseo School and replica of Paso’s first jailhouse. The Gymkhana, begins at 1 p.m. at the Paso Robles Event Center, highlighting our young rider’s horsemanship through competition, races and timed games.
Bearcat Reunion! PR High School Alumni Potluck
The annual dinner is Friday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. at the Pioneer Museum on Riverside Avenue. Visit with classmates and fellow Bearcats, many of whom come home for the yearly reunion. Bring a potluck dish. Donations are appreciated to cover expenses.
She’s small but mighty and devoted to Pioneer Day! Dottie Reiff will be 89 on Pioneer Day. Last year, her 88th fell on the day before Pioneer Day, Friday the 13th (She’s just a little superstitious!) and her day were glorious! This year, #13 also represents the number of years Dottie has coordinated most of the Teamsters, outriders and special entries (a Brahma bull and dancing stallions) that come from all over the state and Nevada. “I feel so lucky and thankful to be able to help with the parade,” says Dottie who also served as Pioneer Day Queen in 2014. “It’s still such an honor to be a past Queen and carry on the Pioneer Day tradition.”