OCEANSIDE — Neighboring the San Luis Rey Mission on Peyri Drive, Heritage Park has held Oceanside’s history for 40 years. The historical park opened on July 4, 1976 and will celebrate four decades July 10.
To prepare for the celebration organizers took a look back at the park’s opening day program and photos. Terry Ann Larson, the park’s volunteer liaison, said entertainment would mirror the park’s first day with Mexican dancers, patriotic music and folk songs.
Entertainment will take place on the center lawn. Performers include Cowboy Jack, Boot Scootin’ Boogie line dancers, Tierra Caliente Academy of Arts Mexican dancers, George Maverick on banjo and Bob Anderson playing Native American flute. Cake will be served during the celebration.
While entertainment will be a nod to the past, it will not include the old fashion swimsuit contest, cake-judging contest, or beard contest that were part of the first opening day fun.
An exhibit in the park’s Libby schoolhouse shares the city Bicentennial committee’s plans to form Heritage Park.
A member of that committee was the late Edith Swain. She volunteered at the park from the day it opened until a few years ago. Larson said she never met Swain, but finds notes and newspaper clippings on the park’s historical buildings left by Swain.
“She contributed so very much,” Larson said. “She collected newspaper articles about everything, even what the weather was that day. It’s benefited me very much by finding those things.”
The park includes the schoolhouse, Blade newspaper office, a jail, emporium and Johansen House. Buildings date from 1886 to the early 1900s. All of them are open to the public with the exception of the Johansen House, which is undergoing renovations.
The turn of the century house has had electrical upgrades, and will be seeing new drywall next month. Larson said new flooring is also needed. The park is currently looking for a sponsor for the house to help with restoration costs that go beyond the park maintenance budget.
The North County Model Railroad Society, which features interactive remote control model trains, is also located in the park.
Heritage Park is popular with weekend tourists, school groups, and as a venue for special events and weddings. Larson describes the park as “timeless.”
“It’s a nice connection with the past, you’re in modern times, but also stepping back as well,” Larson said.
The Heritage Park 40th anniversary celebration takes place July 10, from 1 to 6 p.m., at 220 Peryi Drive.