History of the Columbia Heights Jamboree
How Did it All Begin?
By Marlaine Szurek, President, Columbia Heights Public Library Foundation
On Saturday, September 29, 1934, the city prepared to hold the 1st Heights Jubilee Program to celebrate the completion of the pavement and the opening of Central Avenue. The festivities started at 10 am that morning. Governor Floyd B. Olson gave the principal address at 2:30 pm, and the city’s businesses were closed to honor the Governor’s visit. The Jubilee featured children’s programs at the High School athletic field on 41st Avenue. There was a parade featuring school children, the fire department, and floats that moved down Central Avenue to 37th and returned. There were also races planned for the children which climaxed with a blueberry pie eating contest.
The committee for the Jubilee was composed of Chairman Matt Milner, Chris Anderson, Walter Sochacki, Peter Deanovic, Gust Lindberg, and J.B. McCann. At 2:15 pm, Mayor Ralph Crisp officially opened the celebration when he presented the keys to the city to the public. After the Governor’s remarks, the High School Band had a concert. Following the concert, the highway department’s Chief Construction Engineer, O.L. Kipp, and Executive James Kelly of the Bureau of Public Roads addressed those present. At 4 pm there was entertainment at the High School field. Being that this was an election year, all candidates seeking office were permitted to speak. In the evening, US Senator Henrik Shipstead and Congressman Ernest Lundeen addressed the crowd. The day’s events culminated with vaudeville show and a street dance. All the businesses decorated their store fronts, helped sponsor concessions, and contributed to the fund to purchase prizes for all the events. Some of the prizes given were for those who had come the farthest distance, oldest couple present, largest family present, and the oldest (in years of residence) Columbia Heights citizen.
In 1935, the Jubilee moved to August 24th and 25th, and was held over Veteran’s Day. It included address by Mayor Latimer of Minneapolis and prominent State and Local politicians, diamond ball games, sports programs, a water fight between Columbia Heights and Robbinsdale Fire Departments, baseball games, an amateur talent program, and a vaudeville program.
There were no Jubilee Celebrations during World War II, from 1939-1945.
In 1946, the event became the Annual Summer Festival and was held in July. However, in 1948, the Festival was held on June 27th in conjunction with the Columbia Heights 50th Anniversary celebration.
In 1950, the Columbia Heights Activities Committee took over the event and it became known as the Columbia Heights Jamboree and was held June 20-25. They were a very active group and planned many events for that first Jamboree. A talent show ran both Saturday and Sunday evenings. The show included many acts, including Columbia Heights’ own Barbara Foster, who had appeared on Cedric Adams Spot Light Review. She did a rope tap with Kenneth Burns, teacher from Oakwood School. It also featured the Polish National Dancer performing native dances wearing their colorful native costumes.
The Jamboree also featured the first sponsored Queen Competition. Those first candidates were: Vera Albro, Janet Erickson, Catherine Friis, Marcella Kraus, Jean Lawson, Anita Rognrud, Helen Sullivan, and Doris and Alvina Zickerman. They all rode in the parade, and after being judged by a panel of three judges, one of the girls would be selected as Jamboree Queen on Sunday evening.
Other featured events were a parade, held Saturday, June 24th, at 1:00 pm, which ran from 37th Avenue up to 40th Avenue to Murzyn Hall. There were bands, clowns, marching units, Queen Candidates and floats.
There was also a picnic on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm at the City Park with games and races for all age groups.
During the period of 1950 to 1974, while the Activities Committee runs the Jamboree, Pat Olynyk was the Queen Chairman. She did everything; planning all the events, arranging for the judges, and when it was all said and done she also chaperoned the Queens to all their events. During that time, the Jamboree Queens were required to have a talent, as they also participated in the Minneapolis Aquatennial and the Miss Minnesota Contest. Also, during this time, the Activities Committee built the floats that the queens used. For awhile a different float was built every year, but eventually they designed a float that could be used every year.
In 1974, the Activities Committee disbanded and the Lions Club began sponsoring the Jamboree. The activities, events, Queen and Junior Royalty contests, the parade, the carnival; all these things continued. The Lions Club is still the sponsor to this day.