I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
Historic tradition returning to valley party scene
By Barry Schrader.................................January
It was just 40 years ago when the Livermore Area Recreation and Park
Districts board met with the city council and decided the LARPD would
be the agency to form a Livermore Cultural Arts Council. From that humble
beginning we can recite a plethora of cultural and entertaining events and
programs spawned by LCAC over the years.
Two years later this fledgling LCAC group found it necessary to
raise $300 and so the idea came from Arne and Margo Kirkewoog to hold a
Sommerfest like the traditional German Octoberfest at the fairgrounds. Margo
even solicited Joe Schmiel to bring his band to play the first year and
when it was held June 23, 1968 at the Rec Center (8th and H streets) the
$300 goal was met. The second year the attendance grew and $700 was raised.
Soon a larger location had to be found and once The Barn on Pacific Avenue
was renovated by volunteers (fondly known as the A Crew) from the LCAC it
became the perennial home of the summer dance party.
The early days leaders of the event besides the Kirkewoogs were Milo
Nordyke, Jim Doggett, Bob Grabske, Howard Vierra, Polly Schmedding, Sam
and Sue Spataro, Janie and Bob Selden, Charlotte Severin, Dorothy Svets,
Cleo Graf, and Gil Leppelmeier. Spouses and children took an active role
and it became a family affair for many in LCAC over the years. But like
all big productions, time takes its toll on the organizers and it became
increasingly difficult to maintain by the mid-1980s. So, like the renowned
Fall Arts Festival, the event came to a halt after one last effort in 1990.
Now comes 2006 and Sommerfest will once again be heard echoing off the
rafters of The Barn June 24. Thanks to the leadership of Sam and Sue Spataro
a committee is being formed and the resurrected event will serve as a fundraiser
for LCAC to continue financial support of the art and music programs in
The Kirkewoogs were great promoters of the event and one year danced
the polka the entire route of the Livermore Rodeo Parade on the street.
Margo calls the polka an invigorating aerobic exercise. Sommerfest
floats were also evident several years and this year the Rodeo Parade may
see a float again.
Jim Doggett, who along with his late wife Muriel founded the Fall Arts
Festival, shared some early history of Sommerfest. It seems Jim Crockett,
Books Universal owner and the Independents Lively Arts section editor,
donated $300 to the LCAC so it could fund some event and enhance its tiny
treasury. One of the performing arts groups in town borrowed the $300 but
didnt make a dime on their production. So it behooved the LCAC folks
to come up with a new fundraiser and replace that $300, which they did.
Doggett said he will be wearing his Lederhosen and Spataro also plans to
do so if they still fit. Others will be encouraged to come in festive European
dress if they so desire.
This fun event deserves to be returned to the valleys summer calendar
along with the rodeo and county fair, so give the Spataros a call if you
When I wrote the column about the P.E.O. organization two weeks ago
I neglected to check on the existence of any chapters in Contra Costa County.
Since then I have learned there are three in the Danville area alone. Chapter
RV has Carol Hance as president. Chapter UT is led by Annalia Young and
Chapter WF has Glenda Chang as its leader this year. Also, Chapter FX in
Livermore had quite a scholarship success story related to me by Dona Fraser
Blackmore. Some nine years ago the chapter gave a medical scholarship to
Mary Marcelle Costantino Persnick who is now an M.D. in Portland. And the
doctor has joined a PEO chapter up there because she wanted to pay back
some of the goodness shown her many years ago in Livermore.
Well take a break from history mysteries awhile so I can catch
up on my research.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551