Tag Archives: Pioneer Day

Paso Robles Pioneer Day Is Pure Americana

Every year since the Depression, the town of Paso Robles relives its heritage.

The northern half of San Luis Obispo County (North County), California, is represented in this example of what I like to call real or pure Americana. Paso Robles itself is about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean with the Coastal Range between the city and beach. It’s roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Mentioned this briefly last year, but “Pioneer Day” started at the beginning of the Depression when obviously most were struggling. The community geared up the day to celebrate what people did have back then and that was friendship. So they tied in the commemoration of the cities heritage with a community day and incorporating the theme “Leave Your Pocketbook at Home”. The town got together organizations, churches, businesses along with individuals and gave a little something back to the citizenry.

So this big “thank you” to the town folk has occurred every year since.

About mid-morning, a parade starts going around our city park, which is centered in the middle of town. This parade is a story unto itself. When I first saw this, it was almost surreal – giant steam-powered tractors which are the biggest stars of the show, come puffing down the street. I mean giant; like a couple stories tall. I can’t really describe it because it feels like you stepped back in time.

Coming from not just North County but far beyond, these are museum pieces and you have to realize that these behemoths, a few with one-cylinder, yes one cylinder, are actually still running over 100 years after they first were built. It’s hard to believe these vehicles can run and some of them are absolutely beautiful.

Every tractor you can imagine drives by along with lots of bands and of course the town’s officials and business people. Classic cars, steamrollers, harvesters and fire engines of different sorts also parade around and there are some cool horse-drawn vehicles and they too might have dignitaries on them.

There’s more

After the parade, the lines form for the bean feed – it’s free so you can imagine what it looks like when all of a sudden several thousands people stand in line in our city’s park. Then you can mill around downtown or go to the Museum (Pioneer Park) and look at some of the vehicles up close. There’s also a horseshoe throwing contest. Don’t forget, there are tasting rooms in every direction.

There are all kinds of things to do like watch wood carvers, shelling and grinding corn, make butter, watch a smith shoe a horse and basket-making. There’s probably more but you get the picture.

If you’re into antiques and friendly socializing the way it used to be, this event is perfect. It truly is everything that a small town or community can offer. The atmosphere is fun and special … pure Americana.

Additional source – Check out some great pics here

See ya ’round pardner,

Daryle W. Hier





Paso Robles History Moves From Wild To Wines

Part 2 of 3

As we noted during the earliest years of Paso Robles, founded by James Blackburn and Drury James, the 19th Century offered up the town as little more than a respite for those traveling up and down the coast of California.  They had the sulfur mud hot springs and a train depot but for the most part, the region was ranch and farmland during the Wild West.


Outlaws Jesse and Frank James frequented Paso Robles.

Speaking of the Wild West, as an interesting side note, notorious outlaw Jesse James was Drury’s nephew and hid out in Paso Robles at their ranch and hotel (Paso Robles Hotel), while healing from a wound in a robbery back east.  There were several tunnels and/or subterranean passages under the town and surrounding region to hideout in or getaway if spotted.  Years later, Jesse’s older brother Frank – after serving some jail time – was seen visiting his family in Paso Robles up into the early 20th Century.

Wine slowly rooted itself in the region

As time went on, almond orchards were everywhere and for an era, made the town renowned for their almond production as the ‘Almond Capital of the World’ – before the San Joaquin Valley found water.  Nevertheless, during the late 1800s, Paso had some of the first commercial wineries built – mostly Italian immigrants planted the vines with many of them Zinfandel.  This period was known as the one of the first wine booms in California.

Just prior to World War I, famous Polish composer Ignace Paderewski, while touring, used the sulfur baths for relief of his sore pianist hands and was so taken by the area that he purchased a 2,000 acre ranch.  Paderewski primarily planted Zinfandel – with his name bringing more notoriety to the region.  The Paso Robles Hotel was infamous for visits from big name dignitaries like Paderewski, who stayed there mainly for the mineral hot springs.

Cattle ranches were also huge in the surrounding area and together with orchards, vineyards and farms, the town flourished and grew.  During the early days of the Depression, the businesses started a celebration called Pioneer Day in which private donors, churches and organizations got together to give back to the community and say thank you.  Pioneer Day is still celebrated in early October every year and to this day, the event is free to all including a parade, bean-feed and many other activities.

Small until …

Camp Roberts, Ca., helped bring an influx of population to the Paso Robles area in the Mid-20th Century.

Camp Roberts, Ca., helped bring an influx of population to the Paso Robles area in the Mid-20th Century.

Paso never really blossomed in size until the Army built Camp Roberts during World War II, just a dozen miles northwest of town.  However, my father Ron remembered visiting family in Atascadero (just 12 miles south of Paso) after the war and Atascadero was by far the larger and vibrant of the two towns with Paso considered a dusty little town.  The hot springs over time dried up and it appeared Paso Robles would be nothing more than a small town, lost in the big expanse of California.

One of the few things the town was known for, the Paso Robles Hotel burned down in 1940.  However, a new Paso Robles Inn replaced it and would continue its notoriety through the years.  After World War II, the Mid State Fair took form and added another reason for coming to the little town on the eastern edge of the California Coastal Range.

Cabernet Sauvignon - West PR

Cabernet Sauvignon was planted widely 50 years ago and is now the top grape grown in the Paso Robles region.

Through the 1970s, not much changed in Paso Robles and yours truly visited here in ’73 or ’74 (it’s too long ago to remember clearly) to play football and this was a small town then with maybe 7,000 residents.  Still, during this time, there were definite signs the town had turned to wine including the addition of thousands of acres of Cabernet Sauvignon being planted.

An innovative generation of visionaries brought the town a new economy that would change Paso forever.

We’ll finish this story shortly so keep an eye out for more here very soon as Paso Robles makes history …


Daryle W. Hier 


Pioneer Day

Each year, we have a special day in Paso Robles called Pioneer Day.  You can catch the whole story here: Pioneer Day Paso Robles is Pure AmericanaPioneer Day - Tractor from museum

In brief, it’s a celebration from the town to the town, recalling our heritage.  A parade, bean feed and many assorted things to see and even be a part of, go on all day.

The date for 2013 was Saturday October 12th and the whole thing was free.  One of those many special reasons we call Paso Robles home.