Pioneer heritage goes on parade

Paso Robles’ western heritage will once again be showcased at Downtown City Park on Saturday during the community’s annual Pioneer Day.

The event, now in its 81st year, features free cooked beans and a new twist on old-fashioned Americana: a parade themed to honor the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Among the event’s key features is honoring Pioneer Day royalty, where honorees must have lived in the area for at least 50 years. This year’s queen and marshal have families who arrived in the Paso Robles area in the late 1800s.Barbara Bethel Lewin, queen, has community roots dating back to 1896 while the family of Art Von Dollen, marshal, arrived in 1885.

Lewin’s mother, Edith Leisy, was named the queen of the first Community Fair in Paso Robles in 1919.

The Lewins operated a Foster Freeze in town for more than 25 years and also have operated Blenders for 37 years, which is now located on 12th Street.

Von Dollen, whose family has held several parcels in the area, is a lifetime dry-land grain farmer and cattle rancher. The first Pioneer Day was held Oct. 12, 1931, as a way for businesses to thank their customers. Paso Robles businesses and donors fund the festivities, recognized for the slogan “Leave your pocketbook at home.”

This year’s parade will open with a restored 1902 steam-powered, horse-drawn fire engine once used in the Rose Bowl Parade in Southern California.

Paso Robles Fire Chief Ken Johnson and a Dalmatian pup will be among those aboard. Close behind will be members of local groups and youth waving American flags.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. as horses, wagons, antique tractors, local marching bands and floats travel on Spring and 17th streets to Downtown City Park.

The day will also feature music, contests and historic displays.

This year’s bean feed begins at noon. Volunteers begin preparing the beans in Downtown City Park starting at 7 a.m. For more information on the event, visit www.pasoroblespioneerday.org.