PIONEER PICNIC DAYS
For fifty years folks from far and wide gathered each June for a week long celebration of horse racing, baseball games, socializing, dancing and camping along the banks of Crab Creek in Lincoln County, Washington. The event was wildly successful and attracted crowds in excess of 10,000 people by 1910. The next decade saw unprecedented growth. Eye witnesses stated that there were in excess of 1,100 people on the dance floor of the Dance Pavilion, 500 tents and estimates of nearly 2,000 cars parked around the grounds. Many of the fastest horses in the region competed for cash prizes and the coveted annual Derby Day trophy while rivaling towns assembled there best baseball teams in hopes of winning bragging rights for the following year of having the best team. Kids enjoyed the big steam-powered merry-go-round and competed in running races. There was also good fishing along the banks of Crab Creek that meandered through the picnic grounds.
There was something for the entire family at the pioneer picnics on Crab Creek. Families could listen to rousing brass bands from the grandstand during morning hours and later visiting dignitaries, including Washington State Governors, and local mayors from surrounding towns, would ad- dress the large crowds. The book is a must for anyone interested in the local and regional history of that area. The picnic drew crowds from far and wide.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The idea of a pioneer picnic was not a new concept a hundred years ago. In fact “Pioneer Picnics” were quite popular around the country. Someone has said that there was a pioneer picnic in every community. Some of these annual picnics have enjoyed wonderful longevity and are still yearly events. In the neighboring county of Whitman, a large pioneer picnic was held at Elberton. This event was very popular and well attended with about 3000 picnickers each year. Another large and long-running pioneer picnic was held at Cleveland, Washington, in Klickitat County. Similar celebrations were also held in King County near Seattle, Spokane, several towns in Oregon, and many states across the country. Pioneer picnics were so popular that Lincoln County actually had two different Pioneer Picnics at the same time. One was held at Jurgensen’s Grove north of Wilbur, Washington, and the one at Crab Creek, which is the subject of this work.
Many, if not most, of these celebrations, included horse racing, baseball games, children’s athletic events, and some included tent camping for one or more days. This was also true of the picnics held along the banks of Crab Creek with the event lasting at least three days. Some families camped for up to a week.
Early picnics on Crab Creek were just one-day events, but as these family-oriented neighborhood picnics grew in popularity and size, news spread to other communities and before long there was talk of expanding the picnics into an even larger event. This desire for expansion led to incorporation in 1903.
After the pioneers of Lincoln County incorporated, these family-oriented picnics continued to grow until they closely resembled a circus or county fair. Their goal was to advance social intercourse and gather and preserve the history of the area, and the pioneers who settled it. Officers were elected and by-laws were written. This was the inconspicuous beginnings of the great Pioneer Picnics on Crab Creek that would continue for almost forty years amidst the shady grove of trees along the banks of Crab Creek. Starting in 1931, the celebrations were held at Sprague Lake and lasted another ten years. These latter picnics were only one-day events. Even Ritzville hosted the Pioneer Picnic for one year.
While the picnics on Crab Creek started out as neighborhood gatherings, they eventually grew into the large gala events that so many of our parents and grandparents talked about. I remember my mother, aunt, and grandmother talking about the fun they experienced at these celebrations. This work is an attempt at documenting and preserving the memory and heritage of the great Pioneer Picnics on Crab Creek of long ago.
While there were many similarities to the picnics on Crab Creek, there were also many things that were unique to each individual picnic. The reader will find a section covering the earlier gatherings up to 1902, followed by a year-by-year account of the events which made each picnic unique. There is also a chapter on the vital statistics of each picnic. Perhaps the best part is the over 75 photos that were found during my research. They tell the story in a way that no author can duplicate. It is my hope that the reader will come away with a better understanding of what happened at the great Pioneer Picnics along the shady banks of Crab Creek, in Lincoln County, so many years ago.
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This work includes information about:
- Ritzville, Washington history
- Lind, Washington history
- Sprague, Washington history
- Harrington, Washington history
- Davenport, Washington history
- Odessa, Washington history
- Cheney, Washington history
- Lamona, Washington history
- Marcellus, Washington history
- Creston, Washington history
- Spokane, Washington history
- Adams County history
- Lincoln County history
The book has 193 pages, 192 historic photographs and other advertisements with a bibliography and index.