Pioneering a new theme

Richard Elsom, former student body president at Chico State, current president of KZFR, treasurer of the Celebration of People Inc., and project coordinator for the Downtown Chico Business Association

I write to you as one who has lovingly labored to facilitate a spring parade on the streets of downtown Chico for the last nine years.

What, Chico has a spring parade? If that’s news to you, here’s a shocker (I hope you’re sitting down): It’s called the Pioneer Day Parade!

Started as the Celebration of People Parade in 1996, under the auspices of the Associated Students at Chico State University by its then executive vice-president, Paul DiGirolamo, it grew over the years to a budget of $10,000. In the spring of 2001 the Associated Students allowed a community group, the Celebration of People, Inc., to take over the parade.

Last year we asked the community to pick a new name, and by a wide margin they picked one that’s a lot like the old name. Some worry that, by calling it the Pioneer Day Parade, we are inviting the kinds of trouble that occurred in the past, while others dearly miss the old Pioneer Days and its culminating parade.

We’re not trying to bring the old Pioneer Days back! We’re not even trying to bring the old Pioneer Days Parade back. We’re attempting to create a new parade built on the good that was Pioneer Days and make an 89-year-old tradition new again.

We want to celebrate the pioneer in all of us. Some say that the term pioneer is too limiting and we should move into the 21st century. Don’t we have 21st-century pioneers? Isn’t every child a pioneer in his or her own life?

That drives our focus on the youngest among us. Every child should have something to be proud of, and they could benefit from being recognized now and then for their indomitable pioneering spirit!

We are a group of people who have pride in our community, its history, and its people. We believe we can all come together, enjoy each other and even a parade, without rioting.

COP, Inc., is focused on creating a fun and educational community-building event that is centered on the youth of the Northern California region, but the Pioneer Day Parade is really your parade, built one entry at a time.

Come join the fun. You can still enter this year’s parade, being held at 11 a.m. on May 7. This year’s theme is “100 years of Bidwell Park and the community that loves it,” to help Chico celebrate Annie Bidwell’s glorious gift!

To enter, volunteer, or give a tax-deductible donation, please check out the Web site

If you have any further questions, e-mail me at or call me at 343-6426.