After too long a time in pandemic lockdown, residents of Escalon and the surrounding communities seized the chance to get out for some fun.
Park Fete was observed in Escalon with two days of downtown activity, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6 and 7, and attendees enjoyed music, food, vendor booths, carnival rides and games and, most of all, the chance to socialize.
Among the events lost to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, organizers of Park Fete were hopeful they could have it this year and decided in mid-June – as pandemic restrictions eased in California – that they would go for an early August fest.
Throughout the week there were special events, with Walt and Debbie Murken honored Aug. 3 at the Senior Mr. and Mrs. Escalon luncheon; the Miss Escalon Pageant crowning Madison Hagglund as Miss Escalon 2021 on Wednesday evening, Aug. 4 and youngsters Marcus Montgomery and Rylee Hawkins chosen Little Mr. and Little Miss Escalon during a Thursday night, Aug. 5 pageant.
Then there was the formal opening of the Park Fete downtown, all centered around the Main Street Park stage, on Friday afternoon. The popular carnival rides, games and concessions were brought in by Fun and Games out of Manteca, offering up fun for kids of all ages.
Live music on stage throughout Friday evening and much of the afternoon and evening on Saturday brought some fresh new sounds to town, including bluegrass and Latin influences, along with some popular returning favorites like Remedy and Gotcha Covered.
Saturday morning, Dick and Karyn Dawson were front and center for the Park Fete parade, honored as Grand Marshals this year.
Dick was born and raised in Escalon, and after leaving briefly after college graduation, returned in 1965 to take over the family walnut ranch. Karyn was born and raised in Modesto and after the couple married in 1963 and then moved to Escalon a couple of years later, she was active with the Escalon Junior Women’s Club and served as a Campfire Girls and Cub Scout leader. Both Dick and Karyn have been active in the Escalon Historical Society. Dick was involved in and was past president of the Escalon Lions Club as well as serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce. He represented Escalon for 20 years on the San Joaquin County Economic Development Board. Both have been active on the Park Fete Committee and they were recognized previously as Senior Mr. and Mrs. Escalon in 2008.
Parade emcee Todd ‘TJ’ O’Neill provided information about the numerous floats and groups taking part in the Saturday parade and the first time emcee also did a little visiting along the way.
As this year’s Senior Mr. and Mrs. Escalon Walt and Debbie Murken, rolled past in their vehicle, he stopped them to ask a question.
He asked Debbie what the secret was to the longevity of their marriage, to which she answered “Patience” and, offering the microphone to Walt, he replied “I do what she says.”
As the roughly half-hour long parade wound down, the RMC Power Washing float provided a cooling spray of water, misting watchers on both sides of Main, followed by the city’s street sweeper to collect any debris. Then Escalon Plaza Mini Mart personnel had their pick-up bed filled with ice and cold sodas and waters to give out to the crowd.
For many residents, having the chance to get out and enjoy live music, do a little dancing and eat some freshly made tacos off the food truck, provided a great way to wrap up the summer. They could also take time to peruse the vendor booths and gather information from churches and other local organizations such as the Cub Scouts and the Escalon Chamber of Commerce
Activities were hosted for the youngest attendees in the Kids Corral and there were also stick horse races and chalk art contests put on by the Chamber.
Sonya Huff was busy with a steady stream of customers at her face painting booth, while kids couldn’t seem to get enough of the spinning teacups and soft serve ice cream.
The Escalon Masonic Lodge hosted its Saturday morning breakfast, just before the parade, and several areas around the Main Street Park area also featured tables and chairs under cover for those getting a bite to eat at the Fete.
It all added up to a weekend of old-fashioned fun.
“They did a great job,” Mayor Ed Alves said of organizers pulling the Park Fete together for this year.