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The annual Plumas County Picnic draws a crowd in 1972, but attendance dropped off when a free lunch was no longer offered. This year marks the return of a free meal for the first 500. Photo submitted

County Picnic June 10 brings back the tradition of a free lunch

Submitted by John Steffanic

Plumas Sierra County Fair Manager

It all started in 1952. The County Picnic was unveiled under the direction of legendary Plumas County Fair Manager Tulsa St. Elmo Scott. That first event drew 3,800 people who were served a free lunch that consisted of “1 ton of beef, 400 pounds of beans, and included bread and coffee.” Tulsa was known to sometimes exaggerate statistics, but in this case, it appears his attendance and menu were accurate. Old photos of the popular event showed hundreds of people at a time lined up to get their plate of beef and fixin’s. Some classic picnic activities were thrown in: motorcycle racing, archery displays, baseball games and live music.

The tradition stayed strong for many years. Attendance dropped by half the year they tried to charge a $1 for lunch, so they went back to free the following year. It was 1962 when the very popular Sweetheart of the Mountains Beauty Pageant was moved to the County Picnic. In the mid 70’s, they did away with the free lunch, and as you might expect, attendance languished. The event sputtered along until around 1990, when the Sierra Cascade Street Rodders began their annual Show n’ Shine on the day of the County Picnic. Over time, it has become one of the best car shows in the region. At the same time, the picnic became a picnic in name only.

Along comes the PSCF Foundation. This non-profit organization exists to benefit and promote the Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds in any way it can. Bringing back a true county picnic seemed a logical thing to do. The picnic has always been a good time for families and school alumni to gather, and since many people come back home during graduation weekend, Saturday, June 10 was chosen as the day to have the picnic. A free lunch will be offered to the first 500 people. Much more modest than the thousands that used to attend, but we will see how this year goes. Classic picnic fare of hot dogs and hamburgers, macaroni salad, chips, lemonade and a cup of ice cream will make up the menu. While you eat, you can enjoy live music from Rummy. This classic rock and roll band will get you out of your chair to work off some calories. The Plumas County Health Department will bring in their popular bicycle course for the youngsters. This was a hit at the Children’s Fair this month. If you are more serious about burning calories, the Central Plumas Recreation District will set up a mini-Mountaineer Challenge Course. The main event was held at Plumas Pines Golf Course last year and included challenges like carrying sand bags, crawling through obstacles and that event even had a few slip and slides. This will probably be a dry offering, but still, a good chance to try it out and maybe be inspired to enter the main event this Fall.

Activities begin at 11:30 a.m. and go until 2 p.m. Everything will happen on the promenades just inside the front gates of the fairgrounds. If anyone wants to reserve a space for a reunion, they are encouraged to contact the fair office.

The PSCF Foundation is footing the bill for the event, but donations are welcome.

3 thoughts on “County Picnic June 10 brings back the tradition of a free lunch

  • Looking forward to it 🙂

  • The car show is always a winner–fantastic array of wheels, AKA “rolling art.”

  • I first experienced the “County Picnic” in 1961; I was six years old at the time, and it was my first summer in Quincy, CA, having moved here from Pomona, CA, in the fall of 1960. What a grand adventure it seemed, even though the memory is but a wisp. Many, many years of the County Fair followed, but it was always the “County Picnic” that kicked off the beginning of summer vacation for us kids.

    I’m so very glad, especially as a long-time Quincy resident (albeit on and off over the years) to see this tradition return in the full. I shall not miss attending; in fact, I’ll be vying for one of the first five hundred through the gates for the free lunch!

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