History: LL Park hosts party like no other
6/26/2014 3:06:43 PM
By Ellen Martin Bernardo
Liberty Lake Historical Society
Can you imagine the anticipation and excitement? It is a hot July summer day in 1933. A proclamation has been declared "commanding" everyone to take the day off work to attend Thursday's picnic at Liberty Lake Park! The picnic was free for all to attend. Nearly every merchant and business from the Valley generously donated cash or merchandise for prizes or necessities. Even Washington's Governor Clarence D. Martin came in from Olympia to address those in attendance.
There was always plenty of time available for bathing in the warm, shallow waters of Liberty Lake. The picnic started at 10 a.m. and ended with dancing that lasted until midnight. Races, contests and competitions were held during the day with the youngsters participating in the earliest part of the day. A picnic lunch was served from noon to 1 p.m., and afterward adult competitions commenced. The governor spoke at 5:15 p.m., and dinner was served between 6 and 7 p.m. A children's pageant followed dinner. At the Dance Pavillion, two types of dancing started at 7 p.m. with old-time dancing to Sig's Grangers fiddling before modern dancing began when Jimmy Mack's band took the stage at 9 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Spokane Valley Heritage Museum
An All-Valley Picnic Proclamation circa 1933 requested that local businesses close so that workers and their families could enjoy the festivities.
Every need was accounted for to make the day perfect. The Camp Fire Girls arranged a cabin as a nursery where overly-tired children, babies and their mothers could quietly rest. The Boy Scouts demonstrated their life-saving skills as well as counted cars and passed out free admission tickets (used to tally the number of attendees). A loudspeaker announced each event to keep all the people informed of the day's activities.
Weeks before the picnic, the Spokane Valley Herald newspaper reminded ladies to finish sewing their aprons to enter into the apron contest with the top prize of one dollar for the best hostess apron and a Hotpoint dinette range for the best work apron. The winners wore their aprons onto the platform for all to see, envy and admire. There was a rug making contest for women 65 and older as well as pie and cake baking contests. If handwork wasn't their suit, there was a women's nail-pounding contest. The day's events had something for every age including pillow fights while sitting on a pole, horseshoes, sack races, boat races, diving contests, swimming races, pie eating contests, foot races, water sports and wild softball games.
The indoor Bloomer Girls and Whiskers Boys softball game between two men's teams added a bit of gaiety to the competition. One team dressed as women wearing "sunbonnets, bloomers and unmentionables" (without a dress to cover them) while the other team disguised themselves in every conceivable manner possible, appearing more like colorful clowns than a softball team. The idea was to make sure their own wives did not recognize them.
Prizes were awarded to all the winners and included many different items: five gallons of gas, one pound of Edward's Dependable or Washington Club coffee, a box of Alice Blue chocolates, six halves of Brookfield's cheese, a pair of overalls, a three-pound can of shortening, Cinco cigars, chicken mash and many more. Young's Confectionery of Liberty Lake donated one barbecued ham. The coveted grand prize was $200. So generous were the donations that it took over an hour to announce all the prize donors and winners. It was as exciting to know what the prize was as it was to discover to whom it was awarded to.
When the picnics first began in 1922, people came by train. So numerous were the attendees that special cars were added to accommodate the picnickers. As the years went by, more people had automobiles and the trains stopped running. The picnics survived the changes in transportation and the economic conditions of the Great Depression, but not World War II. With the war going on, a picnic no longer seemed appropriate. An All-Valley Dance replaced the annual picnic beginning in 1942, thus ending 20 glorious summers when the entire Valley was invited to spend the day together on the shores of Liberty Lake.
Ellen Martin Bernardo is vice president of the Liberty Lake Historical Society. She has lived in the Inland Northwest 35 years, 25 of those in Liberty Lake.
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Did you know?
Photo courtesy of
Karolyn Kosanke Collection
• Spokane merchants would host their own picnic days at Liberty Lake, years before All-Valley Picnics began. The ribbons at left advertise one such example.
• Liberty Lake was once known as "The Inland Seashore."
• The 1939 All-Valley Picnic had 20,000 people in attendance, more than double the entire population of the city of Liberty Lake as enumerated in the 2010 census.
• Liberty Lake Park, the site of the picnics, used to be located where Alpine Shores housing development now sits.
• The Dance Pavillion was severely damaged in a fire and was torn down in 1962.
Events, Competitions and Activities
From the Liberty Lake Historical Society, a 2014 monthly series
January - Ice Skating
February - Parade of Mermaid Competitions
March - Opening Day of Fishing
April - Dancing
May - Water Competitions
June - Liberty Lake Amateur
July - All Valley Picnics
August - Dutch Jake Picnics
September - Hydroplane Races
October - Baseball Games
November - Liberty Lake and Football
December - A.R.T.'s Christmas in July