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Barry Schrader


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.

Archive Page

Historic tradition returning to valley party scene

By Barry Schrader.................................January 26, 2006

It was just 40 years ago when the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District’s 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 Livermore schools.

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 Independent’s 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 didn’t 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 valley’s summer calendar along with the rodeo and county fair, so give the Spataros a call if you can help.


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.


We’ll 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:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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