(10/20/02) Editorial – Pioneer Days, 2002

I would like to put to rest a rumor that I heard that the reason for the cancellation of Sunday’s events is that the City took over Pioneer Days.  The City bears no responsibility for the cancellation of three events this year.  The structure of Pioneer Days has always left the individual event planning to the organizations hosting the particular event.  The City did a good job of being a support structure and manager of the overall Pioneer Days event, and the organizations which sponsored the events should be held responsible (or receive the credit) for the failure (or success) of their events.  Unfortunately, Sierra Madre, not the organization sponsoring the event, will receive the blame for failing to deliver, from people who come from out of town to attend an event that isn’t taking place, and from those who don’t know the whole story. 

The one major area of disagreement I have with the City’s management of the event was their decision to cut back on the time allowed for the Oldtimer’s Event, ostensibly so as not to fragment the attendance at other events.  Now that the other events have been cancelled, this decision is all the more disappointing.  But I strongly believe the City needed to take over the management of the event, if only as a transition from the originators, who had stated that they no longer wanted to run the event, and I suggest that planning for next year’s event begin NOW, with a Chairman and Co-Chairman who are not City staff, as was originally proposed by the City at the first 2002 Pioneer Days meeting.  I think the reason that didn’t happen this year was that nobody wanted to take on the management of an October event in July, and I commend Michelle Keith and the Parks and Rec. staff for the job they did in such short a time.  Unfortunately, some of the event sponsors, including the News Net, didn’t come through for them as they needed to, if the ENTIRE Pioneer Days event was to be a success. 

The Oldtimer’s event was, in my opinion, the most successful of this year’s events, and should be the anchor event to future Pioneer Days. The intent of Pioneer Days is to pass on the history of old-time Sierra Madre, and this event exemplifies this.  John Grijolva and Kevin Paschall did a great job of organizing a wealth of photographic history of the town, and dozens, (could have been hundreds over the course of the day), of Sierra Madre oldtimers turned out (from as far away as New York) to reminisce.  If the Oldtimer’s event had been a weekend-long event, the entire Pioneer Days would have been a greater success, in my opinion, as many of the oldtimers would have returned to Lizzie’s for a chicken dinner that they could not purchase advance tickets for, since they are not living in the area any more.  Rotary’s Tri-tip dinner had a good turnout, and was a lot of fun.  I don’t think it had quite as good a turnout as it has had in the past at Kersting Court, but with a return to a more visible venue next year, I think it will rebound strongly.  And as you know from walking downtown, Rotary did a good job of promoting their event, with flyers all over town, and ads in both the local papers.  Dr. White’s Hike into History was thrown a curveball at the last minute, when the National Park Service closed the Angeles National Forest, but still dozens showed up to enjoy a chance to see mules, get a special stamp cancellation, and reminisce.  The Pumpkin Carving sponsored by Parks and Rec. had some kids who were enjoying themselves tremendously when I was there.  The Archival slideshow I can’t comment on, because I didn’t make it by there, so I won’t. 

The Beard Growing Contest, judging scheduled for Saturday night, and sponsored by the News Net, was cancelled weeks ago due to only having one participant.  It’s not a contest when there is only one contestant.  That cancellation rests squarely on my shoulders, as the two ads I placed in the local paper were obviously not sufficient to get the attention of potential contestants.  In the past, flyers have been placed around town several weeks in advance, and this year I got them up less than a week in advance, in part counting on the ads to make up the slack, in part because I didn’t have the time, but mostly, because of a flat-out screw-up on my part not to make it a priority to give it the time it needed, and not to recognize that ads in the paper weren’t going to get it done.  The responsibility for that event failure is mine and mine alone.  Briana Salon was also a sponsor, but Tom trusted me to get things done, and was basically a financial partner, and I let him down.  If Pioneer Days continues, I plan to do a much earlier job of promotion next year, and the Beard Growing Contest will return.  I have spoken with several people who told me they would have been in the contest had they known when it was taking place, so it’s up to me to do a better job of getting the word out in plenty of time next year.  I apologize to the City for my failure to deliver, and to Tom Briana, as well.  I let you both down, and I’m sorry for that. 

The Chicken Dinner had sold only 25% of the advance tickets it needed to sell, and its organizer, Kiwanis, had suffered the death of a very dear member of its family, so that cancellation is somewhat understandable.  I don’t think their heart was in it this year, after suffering their loss.  That being said, had 100 tickets been sold, I don’t think they would have cancelled, despite their loss.  It’s not my place to tell Kiwanis how to run their events, so I’m not, but I will say I think more promotion of the event could have been done, and I also think that hoping to sell advance tickets to an event which has in the past been attended heavily by the old-timers, many of whom come from out of the area (thus limiting their opportunity to purchase advance tickets) to join old friends in reminiscing, was shortsighted.    That only 26 tickets were sold, is, to me, evidence that there was a lack of adequate promotion, leading to a lack of community support.  It also indicates to me that the Club itself had not done a very good job of supporting its own event.  If all the members of Kiwanis had sold 2 tickets each, it would have produced a better result than was achieved.

The Historical Society’s decision to cancel the Craft Fair at the last minute, AFTER publication of a large amount of advertising, and meaning that no Sunday events are taking place despite the half page ads in local papers encouraging people to come to our town today, is still something I don’t quite understand.  The negative perception that comes with the complete cancellation of one of two Pioneer Days would seemingly put at risk the continuation of future Pioneer Days, and to my mind should have precluded them canceling their event at the last minute.  The excuse (not a reason, an excuse) that there were only five crafters and some exhibits seems weak to me, when one considers that Lizzie’s and the Richardson’s house were both scheduled to be open, and the opening of these two “exhibits” have themselves been an event in the past.  Pioneer Days is supposed to be an opportunity to present historic Sierra Madre, and the Historical Society’s decision to close these “exhibits” after saying they’d be open is evidence to me of a lack of commitment to the event on its part.  A disappointing event is better than promising an event and then not delivering an event at all, which the people who come to town today, based on the advertising in the local papers,  will view as Sierra Madre’s failure to deliver, not the Historical Society’s.  It also has the effect of overshadowing the hard work that was put in by the organizations that ran the other events.  By allowing the advertising to be placed (one half page ad was generously DONATED by the Mountain Views, a second was purchased at significant cost, and a flyer was distributed, at a significant cost, in the Sierra Madre Weekly, in addition to other advertising) the Historical Society had in effect promised the event would take place.  The Historical Society could take a lesson from Dr. White, whose Hike into History was cancelled by the National Park Service at the last minute, yet who still staged a successful event by adjusting the plans.  Dr. White is COMMITTED to his event, and recognized the importance of following through, to Pioneer Days as a whole as well as to the Hike, and persevered despite the obstacles. The Historical Society has said that they would like to participate next year, and begin planning earlier, so they can be better prepared to put on a successful event, possibly a home tour and a schoolchildren’s essay, as they have in the past.  I hope they do.  Pioneer Days should have the participation of the Historical Society, and I’m sorry they decided that Pioneer Days could do without them this year. 

I also hope E. Waldo Ward’s will return.  I hope they will sponsor the crafts and antique farm equipment show.   Or if the crafters don’t want to be around the tractors, let’s work something else out.  E. Waldo Ward’s is an underappreciated asset of this town, and more of us should recognize what they offer us, in terms of not only current business attraction, and their financial contributions, but their historical value. 

For the record, unlike the print newspapers, I have never been paid a cent for any of the  promotion this site does for the Pioneer Days events.  In fact, I paid money to be a sponsor.  As a sponsor who helped pay for the print advertising, I think I have a right to speak out, and put in my two cents.  Because I paid much more than two cents to sponsor Pioneer Days. 

Okay, I’m down off the soapbox.