Following 64 years of tradition, the San Miguel Lions Club held its 65th annual Old Timers Picnic on Sunday, August 26 in San Miguel Park. The weather was perfect for a summer afternoon gathering. Mistress of Ceremonies was Miki Sanders, representing the San Miguel Chamber of Commerce, who sang ‘God Bless America’ to open the ceremonies. Many will remember John Craspay – this was his tradition.

The crowd of over 200 people, young and old, were mellow and happy. This picnic is a big old-fashioned family reunion. Everyone catches up on each other’s news of the past year, welcomes new family members and makes new friends. The chicken barbecue was as delicious as is expected from the expert cooks of the Lions Club.

In keeping with the tradition of serving free dinners to people 80 years of age and older, 79 guests were treated to lunch.
The most senior man and women to attend were Henry Barba, 104 and Irene Marquart, 97. They both zestfully enjoyed the party. 2018 Pioneer Day Royalty was in attendance: Marshal Bob Tullock and Queen Jo Ann Arnold Switzer will reign over all the pre-festivities and the October 13th parade in Paso Robles. Belle Jewell Anthony and her court, Hailey Borden and Katie Moffatt were all there. Previous years Royalty in attendance were queens Alberta Lewis (2005), Maggie Vandergon – whose parents were Frank and Ella Adams of San Miguel – (2009), Dottie Reiff (2014), June Bertoni (2016) and marshals Norman Bridge (2013) and John Bertoni (2016).

A listing of all the old-time families represented at the barbecue would be a compendium of pioneers in North SLO County.

In this modern day and age, with so many changes being made so quickly, the north county continues to carry on a strong tradition that goes back to pioneer roots. Pioneer Day was instituted in 1931, two years after the huge Wall Street crash that created the great depression.

The pastor of St. James Episcopal Church, Rev. Dean Thackary, proposed the idea for a day of fun that would be free to all. Everyone enthusiastically began to plan a big parade and festivities in the park. The first year they chose to honor octogenarian Sam Eddy as parade marshal and Ann Casper as Belle. In subsequent years an octogenarian Queen was added and a Belle’s court chosen from among teenaged ladies. All were from pioneer families in Paso Robles and the adjoining and outlying communities.

The Royalty was to be chosen from each community in turn in succeeding years. The motto was “Leave your pocketbook at home.” Most businesses closed for the day and a big pot of beans was cooked up and shared. It was a huge success then and now. On Friday evening before the parade Paso Robles High School Bearcat Alumni are invited to the Alumni Potluck at the Pioneer Museum from 5 to 7 p.m. Be there or be square.