It’s safe to say there won’t be turkey sandwiches dropped on the crowd from a stunt plane this time, but the community of Ramona can expect plenty of revelry to celebrate the past, present and future of Collier Park, the first San Diego County park.
The park turns 100 this year, marked with a community celebration on Saturday, Nov. 2.
The San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department will host a program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring a local food vendor, arts and craft booths, a turkey drawing contest for children and opportunity drawings with themed prizes such as frozen turkeys.
Ramona was known as the “Turkey Capital of the World” for many years and the celebration harkens back to the community’s Turkey Day celebrations held from 1933 to 1941.
Those celebrations drew tens of thousands to the park and the 1936 and 1937 events featured turkey sandwiches “raining down” on attendees from stunt planes.
Those were the days when traveling to Ramona meant taking the rail and then finishing the journey in horse-drawn carriages. (Collier was the first person in San Diego County to own an automobile – a 1900 Olds).
Women spent months working on turkey feather dresses that were judged during Turkey Day.
“Turkey feather dresses were the rage and there were contests featuring the dresses,” said Dave Holt, department of parks and recreation district manager.
Smaller replicas of those dresses will be featured at the event, along with models of the former amphitheater, the historic park entrance that was made out of telephone poles and other items from the park’s history.
The park was named after Colonel David Charles Collier (1871-1934), a local lawyer, real estate magnate and developer. Collier donated the land for the park in 1908.
“Visionaries did that,” said Holt. “He saw things were going to grow in the community and he wanted this land as park land.
“He was an interesting and gregarious individual. He was one of the movers and shakers of San Diego County.”
The park has always been a destination in Ramona.
“Collier Park was the hub of where people came to,” said Holt.
It remains so today through the stewardship of the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The park is extremely well-maintained,” said Holt. “The park staff is dedicated to keeping the park clean and safe.”
The park has evolved over the years. Gone are the swimming pool and band shell/amphitheater.
Today’s Collier Park features tennis and basketball courts, picnic tables, barbecues, a restroom, a lighted and enclosed soccer field, three playgrounds and large grassy areas.
It’s a great place for family gatherings and features a large covered pavilion that’s available by reservation with 20 picnic tables and barbecues.
The eastern portion of the park features a historical trail garden maintained by the Ramona Garden Club. It features native plants, a Blue Star Memorial for Veterans and a children’s garden filled with plants that have funny names.
“We have a very nice community park,” said Holt.
“The park has very steady use from the community,” he said. “People are always playing tennis and the playgrounds are full.”
The picnic tables and barbecue areas keep the park hopping on weekends.
“These are the important features of a community park,” said Holt. “They are what help breathe life into a community.”
They are also the part of a vibrant community park that will be a destination in Ramona for years to come.