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History Center seeks to revitalize Grape Day Committee

The Escondido History Center is researching community interest in developing a revitalized Grape Day Association Committee.

Business leaders, service clubs, schools, informal groups — anyone and everyone with an interest is encouraged to join. The aim of the Grape Day Association Committee is to restore the Grape Day Festival to its original form, one that is inclusive and reflective of the Escondido community in 2017.

Stacey Ellison, director of the History Center, told The Times-Advocate: “For the past twenty years, the History Center has maintained the Grape Day Festival; however, we are a small organization and feel the festival would be better served with broad community involvement. The original Grape Day Association was composed of a conglomerate of Escondido leaders and stakeholders.”

In the 1890s, for the purposes of growing the agricultural industry, city leaders began the process of diverting water to Escondido. It is a fair statement to say that without the water brought to Escondido through the water bonds, Escondido would not be what it is today.

On September 9, 1905 (California Admission ay), city leaders burned the bonds in front of the Lime Street School, located in what is now Grape Day Park. Steiner and W.L. Raimey both saw a marketing opportunity to tie the bond burning to Admission Day – a state holiday – and Escondido’s rich agriculture. It was in this way that the Grape Day Festival was born.

For several decades, Grape Day Festival brought tens of thousands of people into Escondido in one of the largest marketing extravaganzas to hit the state of California. Indeed, only Pasadena’s Rose Parade, in its day, eclipsed Escondido’s Grape Day Festival. In 1912, the Grape Day Association acquired a piece of land to stage the festivities. They called it Grape Day Park.

Visitors to the Grape Day Festival took tours of vineyards, saw a parade, and watched performances by local bands and theatrical groups. Local markets put out booths and tons of grapes were given away. Visitors danced, entered agricultural contests, and so much more. In the 1930s, they even had a miniature golf course! It was a true community affair.

Grape Day Festival ran uninterrupted from 1908 through the Great Depression and only came to a temporary halt following the United States’ entry into World War II.

It was revived periodically following World War II, but without the same gusto.

Says Ellison, “In 1997, the Escondido History Center picked up the torch and we have run with it at various levels of success for twenty years. Last year, we had to cut the parade due to lack of funds. We also changed the date and time of day in an effort to avoid the worst of the heat and increase attendance. Frankly, the former of the original Grape Day was due in large part to community participation. Churches, civic organizations, business leaders, farmers, bankers, students, and more, would come together to celebrate the essence of Escondido. Escondido and community. That is what Grape Day emphasized.

“Over the years, Escondido has grown, evolved, and perhaps lost some of that quaintness that made Escondido unique amongst its neighbors; however, we have the opportunity to redefine and develop Escondido’s community spirit. We can tap into our roots and our history to bring back a community festival that celebrates our city, our people, as well as what we offer to the broader community.”

The first meeting will be held On Tuesday, April 11, at 5 p.m. at the Escondido History Center in Grape Day Park. If you are interested in joining this effort or if you have questions,  call, or email:

Stacey Ellison
Executive Director
Escondido History Center
(760) 743-8207
ellison@escondidohistory.org

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