Atascadero resident Kathy Johnson has spent the last 25 years celebrating the people who have called Atascadero home since its early days of dirt roads and rural expanses.
Johnson, Quota International of Atascadero president, helped host Sunday’s invite-only Colony Tea event to kick off Atascadero’s history-packed Colony Days Grand Centennial Weekend, which starts Saturday.
This year, Atascadero is celebrating its 100-year anniversary of becoming a colony in 1913 with special dedications and events. Colony Days features all the local favorites, including community floats in the parade, family events at city parks and historical re-enactments in Tent City.
The tea hosted 120 guests this year. It’s open to men and women age 55 years or older who have lived in Atascadero for at least 40 years, or attended Atascadero schools and lived in San Luis Obispo County for 40 years.
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“We give the longtime residents time to reminisce about growing up in Atascadero,” Johnson said. “You always hear stories about how they could play baseball on Traffic Way for hours before a car would go by.”
Each year, the tea also crowns Colony Days’ king, queen and grand marshal. For the centennial, the 34-member Quota club decided to honor all of Atascadero’s past royalty instead of crowning a new trio. The larger group will be in Saturday’s parade.
Johnson, 70, moved to Atascadero in 1977 after living in Nebraska and Colorado and attending college in Southern California. She worked as an insurance broker, opening her own firm in town in 1978.
“There were only two traffic lights when I came here,” she said. “It was a lot more rural than it is today. Just a friendly, small town, and it really still is.”
Atascadero is also the place where she met her husband, Barry Johnson, on an autumn day in 1996.
After working long hours through Thanksgiving weekend, she decided to take a break and grab a movie by herself. She saw Barbra Streisand’s romantic comedy-drama “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” in the town’s old theater, located where Colony Square is today.
“I sat down right beside him,” she said with a smile. “The lights had already gone down, and there was an empty aisle seat. I asked him if it was taken, and he told me I was welcome to join him.”
The pair hit it off and wed a year later.
Johnson first joined Quota — an international service club that works to help students, women and children — in 1988.
“It’s my heart,” she said of giving back to the area. “The world is a very crazy, mixed-up place with tragedy, and I can’t change that. But I can make a difference in our community.”
Johnson is just four years shy of achieving the historical standing of her annual tea guests.
“It’s certainly the longest place I’ve lived in my life,” she said. “It’s a great place.”
Colony Days schedule
Colony Days’ special Grand Centennial Weekend takes place Saturday and Sunday with the following events to celebrate Atascadero’s 100th anniversary since becoming a colony. For more information, visit http://colonydays.org.
- 7 a.m.: Lion’s Club free pancake breakfast for the public at the Sunken Gardens.
- 10 a.m.: Colony Days Parade. The route runs in a loop from Olmeda Avenue and West Mall through the downtown via El Camino Real.
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Music, games and kid-friendly activities in the Sunken Gardens along with historical re-enactments and vendors in Tent City on East Mall.
- 11 a.m.: Freedom Street Rods Vintage Car Show at West Mall and El Camino Real.
- Noon: Parade award presentation in front of the Historic City Administration Building at 6500 Palma Ave.
- 2 p.m.: Band field show and drum line competition at Atascadero High School stadium. Cost is $8 for general admission and $6 for age 12 and younger, seniors age 62 years and older and students.
- 6:30 to 10 p.m.: Centennial Gala at the Carlton Hotel featuring presentations, dancing, appetizers, dessert bar and live entertainment. Tickets are $50 per person and only sold in advance. Call the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce at 466-2044.
- 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Vintage Poker Run where folks travel in their own vintage cars between five local spots to play a poker game. Players pick up a card at each stop to complete their poker hand. Trip ends at Atascadero Lake Park for lunch. Tickets are $25 per person for the game and lunch. Pre-registration required. Call 466-2044.
- Noon: Atascadero Elks Club barbeque lunch. Open to the public. Tickets are $10, call ahead at 466-2044.
- Noon: Atascadero Kiwanis Club’s dedication of the new community bandstand at Atascadero Lake Park. Live music starts at 11 a.m.