Pioneer Day on Saturday will celebrate two important events in history that helped shaped the Williams community as a city of volunteers.
The City of Williams will once again rededicate the historic Williams arch, which has spanned E Street, between Fouch’s Drug Store and the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, for over 100 years, as well as recreate the feeding of the Liberty Boys during World War I.
“This year, the focus of Pioneer Day is on the Williams Arch,” said Dixie LaGrande, a director at the Sacramento Valley Museum. “Its rededication after it was saved from complete destruction in the early 1970s is what inspired the first Pioneer Day.”
According to Sacramento Valley Museum archives, the metal arch was erected in 1917. The dedication occurred one year later and honors the memory of the 17 pioneers who were largely responsible for developing the community.
After standing for more than 50 years, the city intended to remove the arch, which had fallen into a state of despair.
“My mother, Annette LaGrande, initiated the Williams Arch Committee to save it from its then neglect and lack of appreciation once she read in the local paper announcing its soon destruction,” LaGrande said. “By 1973, enough money was raised to spruce it up and add the lights. When it was rededicated, Pioneer Day was born.”
The Williams Arch was again rebuilt in 1986 after it was struck and destabilized by a truck.
“The arch was originally built as a focal point on the railroad tracks at the very busy Williams Railroad station,” LaGrande said. “The first early 20th century rail passengers welcomed by the Williams Arch were World War I troops en route from Camp Lewis, Wash. training site to ship out to Europe to join the Great War. Local patriotic residents of Williams and from other Colusa County sites, totalling only a few hundred, organized, cooked, and served more that 1,000 hungry young men hearty means while passing through to ‘Over There.’ Local ladies also gave out comfort bags.”
As a symbolic recreation of the historic photo that appears in Patricia Ash’s book “Williams,” the city will serve breakfast to Colusa County veterans and their families at Granzella’s banquet hall at 8:30 AM.
According to the archives of the Sacramento Valley Museum, 917 “hunger stricken” soldiers and 250 visitors were fed 1,200 pounds of barbecue beef over a two-day period as a “fitting farewell to men who were to carry the banner of democracy in a foreign land,” and “brought home with greater force that the United States is at war.”
The arch celebration will follow the breakfast at 9:30 AM, and will include a color guard and remarks by Williams Mayor Chuck Bergson. The public is encouraged to attend.
Pioneer Day events Saturday also include vendors at Redinger Park, beginning at 9 AM, and the annual E Street parade, sponsored by Citizens for a Better Williams.
Karen’s House will sponsor its first rib cook-off competition (food available for purchase around 12:30 PM) and children’s activities, which will also be held in Redigner Park, following the parade.
The Sacramento Valley Museum will be open in the late afternoon, with the focus on Colusa County’s war heroes.
“If you want to find out what was in the comfort bags the ladies handed out to the soldiers, then you have to come to the museum,” LaGrande said.
Visitors to the museum will also be able to tour the Glen Valley School House, the one-room school that operated about 10 miles north west of Williams from 1875 to 1935.
Later in the evening, a dance will be held at Louie Cairo’s to DJ Kent Boes, and Morning Star will sponsor the annual fireworks show around 9 PM.
LaGrande said that this year’s Pioneer Day celebration is the collaborative effort of various people and organizations, and reflects Williams’ rich history of civic participation.
“So many people have given and continue to give of their time and resources to make a better extended community for us all,” LaGrande said. “Too many are now gone. Many are nearing retirement. And the next generation will need to carry on; many already do.
Volunteering and contributing to charities are honored American traditions without which our collective lives would not be so enriched.”