Some 2,000 people gathered here July 20 for a festive pioneer picnic/activity day celebrating the arrival of the ship Brooklyn in the San Francisco Bay Area 150 years ago.
Held on the grounds of Dominican Sister's Convent Quadrangle, the event commemorated the first Latter-day Saints to arrive in California July 26, 1846, in what was then called Yerba Buena. According to Lila Bringhurst, one of the organizers, some of the Brooklyn passengers traveled to Mission San Jose, site of the convent, hoping to settle in the area. They were greeted at the mission by a priest, who helped them buy land and begin their farming ventures."The Mission seemed like an appropriate place to have the celebrations," Sister Bringhurst said. "When I asked for permission to use the convent grounds, the Dominican sisters generously agreed to let us use their property."
The celebration was organized by the Sesquicentennial Celebration Pioneer Committee, comprised of representatives from the Hayward California, Fremont California and Fremont California South stakes. Scott Anderson, Hayward stake high councilor and a member of the committee, said they were assisted by members of the various wards within the stakes.
"It was a lot of work to put together an event of this size," said Brother Anderson.
The rustic setting of the mission in the San Jose area provided a backdrop for the day's events, which included brief remarks by Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy and president of the North America West Area. He delivered a message of love from the First Presidency and recognized the importance of the legacy left by the Brooklyn pioneers to California.
Festivities included a lively parade. Around the convent quadrangle, descendants of the original Brooklyn passengers were joined in the march by cheering Primary children carrying banners representing the individual wards in the area. A float featuring a model of the ship Brooklyn was followed by replicas of covered wagons, a bugle troop and people dressed in pioneer costumes.
Demonstration booths drew large crowds of people eager to learn the crafts of spinning, woodcarving, quilting, butter churning, cornhusk doll-making and candle-making. Children crowded into the tub-and-washboard booth to try their hand at washing clothes the old-fashioned way.
Andy Galvani, a descendant of the indigenous Native American tribe, the Ohlones, fascinated guests with arrowhead-making demonstrations.
Children participated in pioneer games and learned hoop-rolling, stick-pulling, jump roping, gunny-sack racing, relaying, foot-racing and making racing boats from walnut shells.
"This day was a wonderful education, especially for the young people," said Kenneth Steadman, Fremont stake high councilor. "There were so many opportunities to learn about the pioneer's history and lifestyle and the event."