As we close in on fall, I am thinking about the annual citywide celebration in October we call Colony Days.
The weeklong festival, which begins with a luncheon for city pioneers, culminates with the annual parade, which, frankly, appears to be falling out of favor with Atascaderans. As one civic leader quipped recently, last year’s parade had more people in it than watching it.
This year’s parade theme is “Volunteers on Parade,” which I assume is intended to spur volunteer organizations to build parade entries around what it is that their organization does. And you don’t have to belong to any kind of formal civic group. Many individuals volunteer throughout the year to help feed the homeless, deliver birthday cakes to local convalescent hospitals, teach someone to read or deliver meals to seniors.
Finding just the right parade theme isn’t an easy task. I’ve sat in countless meetings over the past 30 years as we struggled to find the perfect theme to build a parade around. Probably one of the most popular themes in terms of generating parade entries was “The Wonderful World of Books.” It seems everyone had an idea for that theme, compared to a weak response for the theme, “Get Your Funny On.”
When you stop to think about it, volunteers have been an integral part of this city’s success.
Volunteers, shortly after World War II, created the bowl and track below the high school. Individual volunteers led the movement to create baseball fields at Atascadero Lake and along a portion of Traffic Way. Hundreds of volunteers turned surplus state hospital property into playing fields we now know as Paloma Creek Park. Other volunteers were responsible for the equestrian facility next to those playing fields.
Horseshoe pits and bocce ball courts were built by still more volunteers in recent years, and a children’s park at the ECHO Center is the result of funding and actual sweat equity donated by volunteers from a service club. That same club, joined by other civic clubs, led the funding and construction of Centennial Bandstand.
Volunteers worked to bring in donations that resulted in this city getting an exemplary library that opened just a little more than a year ago.
Whether it is dancing a tango, pouring cement, knocking on a door to deliver a hot meal or building a memorial to those who gave their lives in military service to their nation, volunteers have made it happen.
Atascadero consists of people from all over the political spectrum who argue over practically everything, except the importance of everyone getting together and building a play park for children with special needs, funding an after-school program and more.
This year’s Colony Days is celebrating that volunteer spirit, first promulgated in E.G. Lewis’ “The Ideal Atascaderan” published on the back of one of his land sales brochures about 1914.