What is summer in Santa Cruz without a pioneer potluck picnic? Thanks to the Soquel Pioneer and Historical Association, there is one – and it has been happening every year on the last Saturday in July for more than eighty years.
The Soquel Pioneer and Historical Association is an organization of volunteers who preserve the history of Soquel through events, education, and donations. SPHA was founded by Nora Oliver Angell in 1938. In the summer of 1939, Angell was elected to serve as the association’s first president during an “old-timers” picnic at Pringle Grove in Soquel. Since then, the organization sponsors an annual summer potluck picnic to bring community together, commemorate the pioneers and Soquel’s history, and celebrate the role the town has played in the development of Santa Cruz County.
Pringle Grove was a popular outdoor setting for social activities since the 1880s. The wooded property became the go-to location for pioneer gatherings, and owners Lloyd and Annie Pringle eventually gifted the grove to the community and granted a deed to the association in 1945. In the early days, it was a center for local events, barbecues, band music, and dancing.
To preserve the tradition and support the community, the association continues to host an old-fashioned basket-lunch picnic with an educational component. Guests are invited to look at vintage photographs and scrapbooks, participate in a raffle of items donated by local merchants, and listen to guest historians who share stories about the town and its settlers.
This year the speaker will be Carolyn Swift – an expert in historical research, exhibits, tours, education, and publications featuring many aspects of Santa Cruz County. A native of Watsonville, Swift has contributed to five history books, compiled the historic context statement for the City of Capitola, contributed 150 newspaper articles published in papers throughout the county, and was the former Capitola Historical Museum director.
In 2012, the Museum of Art and History gave Swift and seven other co-authors from the SPHA committee the Historian of the Year award for their book “Soquel”. The book took four years to create, and is an archive of collected facts and photographs that have been preserved in the Soquel Porter Memorial Library. The library opened in 1913, and is a local historical landmark including a room where the association displays historical books, information, and photographs for the public.
The annual pioneer picnic is open to everyone. There is no charge to attend the event, although donations are appreciated. The potluck and complimentary program begin at 12:00pm on July 30th, 2016.
For more facts and photos documenting the history of Soquel, visit the Soquel Pioneer and Historical Association website.