Rector History Luncheon Held
The Rector Labor Day Picnic has been the premier event in the community for the past 75 years.
Leland Blackshare has attended the vast majority of them and he shared many fascinating details at the Rector History Luncheon on Wednesday of last week.
The historical reviews are held periodically at the Rector Visitors Center and are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
Blackshare said the success of the event is "the result of many people and their caring for the community," noting the large number of volunteers who work in the various stands and take on a wide variety of other tasks.
He noted the State of Oregon celebrated American workers for the first time in 1892 and the U.S. Congress established the national commemoration two years later.
Rector's first event was held in 1941 and it has continued unabated since that time.
Blackshare said the location of the celebration, Rector Memorial Park, was donated to the city and local residents began the task of clearing the wooded lot to make a space for the picnic.
The event's first grand prize, Blackshare noted, was a Jersey heifer milk cow.
The early stands were made of wood and were constructed and then taken down after the event. Floors were sawdust. Many improvements have been made over the years, including concrete floors in the stands, extensive water and electric projects and the paving of the roads in the park. The entrance sign to the park was constructed in either 1949 or 1950 and moved to its present location in 2004.
The stage originally was built without a roof, but that improvement was accomplished later. Blackshare said the late Bert Sigsby was involved in a lot of the improvement to the picnic grounds.
A highlight of the picnic parade over the years was the visits of the Jones Family. Blackshare said the humorous "family" was the inspiration of the late Maude McBride and Lillian Randleman. "The family grew and grew each year until some of them were put up for adoption," Blackshare said.
Blackshare and several in attendance noted the importance of picking cotton in the area and thousands of youngsters over the years were able to enjoy some of the offerings at the Labor Day Picnic through money they earned in that endeavor.
A brand new Ford automobile was the grand prize for several picnics in the 50s and 60s, with the vehicle coming from Crockett Motor Co. Blackshare said Charlie Jones won the first one in 1953, which he remembers as being cream-colored. He said Bob Ward won a red and white station wagon in 1955 and John Taylor a yellow and white beauty in 1958. Blackshare remembers 1966 as the last year a car was the prize.
Blackshare said seven high school bands participated in the parade in 1966.
He said the late Clarence Rust was the stage announcer through much of the 40s, 50s and 60s. In more recent years, that task has been handled by the late C. Ray Miller and Danny and Gail Ford.
Blackshare pointed out that the proceeds from the picnic have been used for the maintenance of Woodland Heights Cemetery, recognized as one of the most beautiful in the region.
"In Rector, Arkansas, we have a love for our community," Blackshare said. "Today, we have something we can be really proud of with the appearance of the park and the success of the Labor Day Picnic."