SAN DIEGO, CALIF.
The march of the Mormon Battalion into San Diego on Jan. 29, 1847, was commemorated in a sixth-annual celebration Saturday, Jan. 31, at San Diego Old Town Historical Park.
Eva Peterson who with her husband, Richard, oversees the event organized by a Church public affairs committee of historical specialists in the San Diego area, said in a Church News telephone interview that about 3,000 people attended the 2009 gathering's parade, booths and entertainment.
This year, she said, California San Diego Mission President Lee L. Donaldson let the full-time missionaries take some time in the morning to march in the parade reenacting the Mormon Battalion's original march into the city. The missionaries joined in the parade with other Church members, representatives of the Mormon Battalion and the San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteer Association, a group of independent reenactors who focus on General Stephen W. Kearny's Army of the West and the Battle of San Pasqual.
Sister Peterson noted that San Diego was a small town in 1847 and it may have been frightening for the residents to see the battalion force of about 300 march in. But the battalion members "did a lot of service for San Diego and that's what we're trying to depict" in the annual celebration, she said.
Fourteen booths were manned by various stakes in the area. Among them, one demonstrated adobe brick making, a trade used by the battalion for constructing buildings and lining wells. Another booth demonstrated rope making, since, as Sister Peterson surmised, the battalion must have had to make its own rope. Biscuits cooked on a stick at a booth showed one of the staples the soldiers ate on the trail. Other booth demonstrations were gold panning, pioneer toy making and doll making.
Children participated in a scavenger hunt and when they collected all the stamps from booths, received a bag of gold coins (wrapped chocolate) as a prize. There was also a children's march every hour with participants receiving a battalion flag they could keep, Sister Peterson said, adding that the commemoration is a "real hands-on event."
Musicians, storytellers and Spanish dancers performed during the day.
"We were pleased with the event," Sister Peterson said. "People learn the history of San Diego and its Church history, too."
It is made possible through the efforts of a large force of Church members, she said. — Greg Hill