GATHERING BEFORE A PICNIC, PERHAPS – The LeLundi Club of La Conner, early 1900s. ("Le Lundi" is French for Monday.) These young women later founded the Billiken Club. Today’s club members are being honored at Thursday’s Pioneer Picnic in La Conner’s Pioneer Park.  – Photo courtesy of Skagit County Historical Museum
GATHERING BEFORE A PICNIC, PERHAPS – The LeLundi Club of La Conner, early 1900s. ("Le Lundi" is French for Monday.) These young women later founded the Billiken Club. Today’s club members are being honored at Thursday’s Pioneer Picnic in La Conner’s Pioneer Park. – Photo courtesy of Skagit County Historical Museum

Young and old alike are invited to Pioneer Park on Aug. 4 to attend the 118th annual Pioneer Picnic and honor the Nelson family for their leadership in Skagit County agriculture, industry and public service.

The event begins at 11:15 a.m. with a barbecue salmon dinner prepared by the “Good Girls” and served by members of the Civic Garden Club. 

Coffee and beverage concessions will be provided by the Sunrise Food Bank, with proceeds supporting its service projects.

Lunch is $20 and includes a commemorative pioneer ribbon that can be used for free weekend admission to the Skagit County Historical Museum.

Following the meal, the Skagit County Pioneer Association holds its business meeting and program, where descendants of Emil and Anna Nelson will be formally recognized as the Pioneer Family of the Year. The couple was wed in 1910 in Burlington and successive generations have made their marks in farming, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, real estate, military service and countless other endeavors.

Nelson family members will assume key Pioneer Picnic speaking roles along with Pioneer Association President Liza Peth Bott, past Pioneer Association President John Kamb, Jr. and Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe.

In addition, the La Conner Billiken Club, Harmony Birthday Club, Territorial Daughters of Washington Chapter Two and Edison Women’s Club will be saluted as this year’s Pioneer Spirit Award recipients.

As in the past, the Leif and Sunnie Accordion Duo will offer live music. There will be a display of pictorial story boards assembled by Mari Densmore and historical museum staff chronicling highlights from the Nelson family and spirit award organizations.

Museum staff will also be on hand with a variety of publications, including the current edition of the Skagit River Journal, a project spearheaded by Pioneer Association Memorialist Dan Royal.

Throughout the day there will be opportunities to reminisce with longtime friends and new acquaintances and join in group singing.

“This is an important event for members of our community,” Bott said, “and a time to celebrate our truly amazing pioneer heritage.”

Bott stressed that all are welcome to attend, especially those interested in Skagit County and its rich cultural and historical heritage. 

Or, for that matter, anyone who enjoys eating salmon.

“The Skagit County Pioneer Association was founded in 1891, but with requirements excessively restrictive, it soon disbanded,” Royal said. “In 1904, a group based in Sedro-Woolley revived the association under less stringent guidelines, and Pioneer Picnics and General Meetings have been held regularly ever since.”

The lone exception was 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

La Conner, as the original Skagit County seat of government – that status was lost to Mount Vernon in 1884 – was tabbed as site of the Pioneer Picnic given its integral part in the area’s early development, serving as what former town council member Michael Hood described as “a lively terminus for river streamers bringing timber and lumber down from the upper Skagit and port for farm commodities grown in the surrounding delta flatlands.”