City of history celebrates 150 years

Events on tap for San Juan Bautista’s sesquicentennial

The 150th Anniversary Celebration kicked off with a Saturday parade depicting the path of the city’s history, with costumed marchers from Franciscan priests to Mexican vaqueros to 20th century classic cars.

With a history spanning more than 200 years, the city of San Juan Bautista has always found something to celebrate. 

Whether it’s antiques, arts and crafts, or rib cook-offs, the community is known for coming together in enjoying what makes their town unique. And on Saturday, Sept. 7, one more reason to celebrate will be added. 

“One hundred and fifty years ago, the State of California recognized [San Juan Bautista] as an incorporated city,” said Ann Fritch, SJB resident and chairman of the town’s 150th Celebration. 

Though the community was established in 1797 after the building of its mission, Fritch explained it was a Spanish pueblo at the time. 

“And after the American invasion, it was just a community,” she added. “What we are celebrating is the official incorporation of San Juan Bautista.”

The “Town of History” is inviting the public to its celebration on Sept. 7 to “Follow the Trail of History.” The day’s events will begin with a pancake breakfast at the Texas Masonic Lodge (at 405 Second St.) at 9 a.m., followed by a plaque dedication given by E. Clampers Vitus to commemorate the former SJB Volunteer Fire Department at 10 a.m. (located at 24 Polk St.).

Festivities will continue at 11 a.m. with a parade going down Third Street, beginning at San Juan School. 

The parade will depict SJB’s history, from its early days to the present—“like a timeline through the establishment of the community,” Fritch said.

Beginning the procession will be a portrayal of Franciscan priests on foot, accompanied by soldiers and their families. The Mexican Rancho period (with horsemen portraying vaqueros) will follow, along with a group on horseback that will display the early ranching days. Afterwards, a modern day ranching and horsemanship will be depicted, and a rodeo drill team will perform.

And to honor SJB’s history of US Highway 101 having gone through town (via Third Street), a parade of pre-1965 classic vehicles will drive down the former highway. Representatives of the town’s established organizations during that period will be escorted; the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Native Daughters of the Golden West, the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, among others.  

“The very last thing will be the Clampers [El Clampus Vitas], in mass,” Fritch said. “And they’ve promised they’ll have a little band.” 

After the parade, Fritch encouraged people to take a stroll downtown, visit all the different shops, and then “come on up and relax in the park.”

The public can haul their picnic baskets and blankets to the free event, from noon to 5 p.m.,  held at Abbe Baseball Park (located at the corner of Fourth and Muckelemi streets). 

“We’ll have music and a lot of games for the kids,” Fritch said. “And we’ll have free hot dogs.” 

A flag burning ceremony will then take place at 6 p.m. at the VFW Leslie L. Garratt Post 6359, 58 Monterey St. And an evening of dancing at the VFW Hall (with a $10 charge at the door) , beginning at 7:30 p.m., will culminate the day’s activities. 

“People can kind of stagger over [to the dancing] if they have any energy left,” Fritch laughed. “What we’re kind of trying to do is make it in memory of the old fiesta rodeo—when we had all kinds of wonderful things happening; the parades, the dances and the barbecues.” 

The “fiesta” will continue on Sunday, Sept. 8, when the inaugural Sip & Celebrate Beer & Wine Stroll takes place from 1-5 p.m. in downtown SJB. Twenty participating businesses will be paired with a local winery or brewery, where attendees will be poured two ounces of wine or two ounces of beer/cider crafted by local and regional beverage artisans. 

“The event is geared toward raising funds for the different non-profit organizations that are going to be taking part,” Fritch said. “A couple of people from each one of the different non-profits are going to be doing the pouring and greeting the public. They’ll be dividing the profit between each organization.” 

Guests will enjoy sipping from the following participating draft breweries, wineries, and cideries: Aimee June Winery, Bargetto Winery, Brewery Twenty Five, Calera Winery, Carli Alicats Winery, Divum Wines, Dorcich Family Vineyards, Eden Rift Winery, Effigy Brewing, Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co., Fortino Winery, Golden State Brewery, Kelly Brewing Company, Medeiros Family Wines, Morgan Winery, Mount Eden Vineyard, Pessagno Winery, Promised Land Brewing Company, Puma Road Winery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, Santa Cruz Scrumpy Hard Cider. The SJB brewery, Brewery Twenty Five, will also be releasing a special beer in honor of the city’s 150th. 

“I’m excited to be a member of a wide region of amazing artisans and to have the support of our local community in bringing beer, wine and cider lovers to my area,” said Fran Fitzharris, owner of Brewery Twenty Five.

Fritch said Sunday’s event looks very promising, and the work done on it has been “incredibly thorough,” she said. 

“Twenty different places to go; even the hardware store is one of them,” she said. “It gives a good chance for spectators to see not only the exterior of the building, but to go into some of the shops and see what they have; explore a little while they’re sipping their wine or their beer.”

For information on the free 150th Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 7, visit san-juan-bautista.ca.us. Tickets for the Sip & Celebrate Beer & Wine Stroll on Sept. 8 include a souvenir collectible tasting glass, wristband, gift bag, and passport with map. Early bird tickets are $35 and are available at 18th Barrel Tasting Room, Bear’s Hideaway, Vertigo Coffee Roasters. Tickets at the door are $45.

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