Looking Back: Pitt Meadows Day turns 75

This iconic community event got its start in 1938.

The first Pitt Meadows annual sports day ad Strawberry Festival took place in June 1938.

The first Pitt Meadows annual sports day ad Strawberry Festival took place in June 1938.

There is just over a month to go before Pitt Meadows Day is celebrated for the 75th time.

This iconic community event got its start in 1938, when Anne Anderson was crowned the First Annual Sports Day and Strawberry Carnival Queen.

Isabel Sharpe was named the retiring queen, as she had reigned for one year after being crowned “the first and only May Queen” in 1937.

Prior to that time, residents of Pitt Meadows had headed either east to Maple Ridge or west to Port Coquitlam to celebrate in their respective May Day events.

The first Pitt Meadows Day (Strawberry Carnival) was celebrated on June 17th, a Friday.

The Royal Party, besides Anne and Isabel, included eight attendants:  Rose McGee, Kimie Fuji, Yasuko Eyemoto, Eunice Carlson, Joyce Murray, Rosina Severinski, Patricia Mostrenko and Mitsui Suzuki.

All of the Royal Party dressed in white and the queen, retiring queen and two main attendants wore light coloured capes with rabbit fur at the collar.

All members of the party carried bouquets and they stood for their official photo on the steps of the then municipal hall with a carpet at their feet and floral decorations on each side of the step framing them.

In 1939, a royal scepter was introduced and the party was shot outside the hall on a small temporary stage.

In 1940, the Royal Party grew to 12 from 10 and in 1945 grew to 16, including the addition of two young men, Melvin Holland and Preston Bailey, as flag bearers.

In 1945, the event was rebranded “Miss Pitt Meadows Day,” and in 1947 Reta Kvaas was crowned Miss Pitt Meadows and would be the last queen before the 10-year-old event went on hiatus due, in part, to the massive 1948 flood that would consume the time and energy of all the adult citizens of this and other communities throughout the Fraser Valley.

For a further three years the celebration lay dormant, thus bringing us to the reason that after 79 years we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Pitt Meadows Day.

And how did the event come to be reactivated?

In 1951, the Pitt Meadows Lions Club had formed and it was one of its early priorities to restart the celebration.

In 1952, Pitt Meadows Day returned, with Marlene Wickson as the new queen and a four-year-older Reta Kvaas as retiring queen.

The attendants, including two male flag bearers, numbered 14, and this wonderful celebration that embodies community spirit continues has continued unbroken for 65 more years.

It also bears mentioning that the club that reactivated Pitt Meadows Day in 1951 is also marking an anniversary this year.

The Pitt Meadows Lions Club formed 65 years ago in 1951, holding its first meeting on April 5th of that year and celebrating its charter night on May 25th, with a party at the Pitt Meadows municipal hall (its own hall would not be built until 1958), with Charles Armstrong as their first president, and Eugene Bennett the secretary treasurer and a total membership of 18.

 

– Leslie Norman is curator of Pitt Meadows Museum and Archives.

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