• 75 Years of Celebrating Butterflies

    by Dixie Layne

    Nate Harvey and Connor Bo 2012The costumes are ready, the bands are arranged, banners are set to wave, and the air is filling with excitement as Pacific Grove prepares for its annual Butterfly Parade and Bazaar on Oct. 5th.  For 75 years, Pacific Grove’s schools have joined together in the fall to form a parade that welcomes the monarchs back to their overwintering home, Butterfly Town USA – America’s Last Hometown.  This year the parade will line up at its host school, Robert H. Down Elementary, and begin its procession at 10:00 a.m. from Pine Street to Lighthouse Avenue and back again. The Bazaar will be held behind the school from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

    1940 Butterfly Festival Ticket edit“Each year the Butterfly Parade takes us into winter – it marks the end of summer and the start of the holiday season,” explains parent and Butterfly Parade Committee member, Elizabeth Harvey. “You can feel a change in the air; it is quintessential fall.” she continues. “It is the first occasion many of our new military families see Pacific Grove in action; they see what Pacific Grove is all about.”

    The 75th anniversary of this iconic event will be marked by a special exhibit celebrating the Parade and Bazaar’s history with photos, memorabilia, and stories from 1939 through 2012. The exhibit’s tent will be part of the Bazaar and open to the public.  Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the exhibit. For many of us it will provide a chance to relive the joy and pride we felt during our own march through the streets of Pacific Grove.

    1939 Butterfly Pageant Program 1st AnnualThe first Butterfly Parade was held in 1939 and was part of a much larger celebration called the “First Annual Butterfly Pageant and Golden Anniversary Celebration,” whose purpose was to mark the City’s 50th anniversary.  According to the event’s Program, the Celebration started at 10:00 a.m. at Pacific Grove’s Municipal Ball Park with a social get-together and impromptu talks; the PTA bazaar booths opened at 11:00, and at noon the Golden Jubilee program began.  At 1:00 p.m. the Kidddie Wheeled Parade started at the Post Office, preceded by the high school band and butterfly banner with the PTA Dad’s Club supervising. Parade judges were Mrs. C.C. Stewart, A.B. Ingram, and Mrs. W.G. Cook. With the parade’s arrival at the Ball Park, prizes were awarded followed by talks about the monarchs, music, a play of four scenes described as an Indian Legend written and performed by residents. Then Leo Weber and his trained horse performed, and the event closed near 10:00 p.m. when the final curtain came down on the play – the history of Pacific Grove performed in six episodes.

    The Pageant was presented again in both 1940 and 1941, but World War II put the Pageant on a five-year hiatus. In 1947, the Pageant was revived as a three day celebration with a Parade of more than 800 children being held the preceding Saturday.

    Ford Times cover Oct 1977 editJayne Dix Gasperson recalls the 1947 Pageant. “It was a big deal. I remember performing as a soloist opening night at the Ball Park.”  News reports of the day and the 1947 program describe more than 150 local actors performing in the Butterfly Play; a lavish production with a set built by The Lighthouse Club and City employees who donated their time. The set included a real waterfall and the representation of a pine forest. The costumes were said to be treated of colorful luminous paint that provided a special effect with the use of a dark light. The Monterey Peninsula Masonic Choir performed, of which Mrs. Gasperson was a member.

    By 1950, the Butterfly Parade and Bazaar was a school event, kept alive by Pine Street School teacher Millie Gehringer and the PTA. The Parade started at Pine Street School and finished at the Boy Scout Hall where the Bazaar was held.  Although there were only 25 children marching in the 1939 Parade, in 1951 more than 1,500 costumed children from public and parochial Pacific Grove elementary schools marched in the Parade, including 34 class groups, two bands, baton groups, school clubs, Scout troops,  decorated horses, bikes, wagons, and costumed dogs and cats. In 1968, First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson visited Pacific Grove and was welcomed by some local “butterflies” – costumed elementary school children.National Geo 1963

    With thanks to those who have kept this hometown tradition alive for 75 years, we thank this year’s team for reminding us of our heritage; Robert H. Down principal Mrs. Linda Williams, Butterfly Parade Committee co-chairs Steve Rodolf and Rachel Hunter, and Historical Exhibit chair Elizabeth Harvey and her husband James.  And in turn they would all like to thank everyone who contributed to this year’s Parade, Bazaar, and Exhibit.

    Mr  Gary Williams Class 2012 majorettes c1950s edit James, Elizabeth, Connor, Dexter Harvey 2edit 1958 Rbt H Down Marching Band Btrfly Parade



    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 3, 2013

    Topics: Schools, Butterflies


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