There are no records to show if "Picnics" where held in the first few years of the town's history. However, in 1885 the city council permitted three stands to be put in Spring Park to help defray the picnic expenses. The mayor, H.C. Wilson, and the city council paid the fee on one stand that year. One assumes that the "Picnic" had already become an annual affair.
By 1890 three stands plus a merry-go-round and a dance floor were permitted in the park for the celebration. Stands were leased, with proceeds going to pay the picnic expenses.
The 1896 "Picnic" had orators, parades and processions each day, fireworks each night, band contests, bicycle races and balloon ascensions each afternoon. The 15th annual celebration was recorded as a grand success. The celebration lasted two days and expenses totaled $545.75, including $18.87 to George Anson for dipping water, $35.00 each to 4 bands, $52.88 for fireworks, and $19.50 for ice. Ten thousand people were present for the two day event.
A real effort for entertainment took place in 1898 because the railroad brought additional thousands of people to town. A "Flower Parade" was held; the balloon ascension by Professor Bozarth was breath taking as he went up several thousand feet, there was an explosion, he shot into space and came down with a parachute; the Butler Flambeau Club held a torchlight parade and pyrotechnical display each evening.
The 1903 "Picnic" hosted Champ Clark and other prominent speakers. Vaudeville entertainment, a steam merry-go-round, Professor Henry's city band, bicycle races made the event memorable. Urless Huff, the "Wizard of theAir" made his debut in his home town. The celebration again lasted two days, the 20th and 21st of July.
The 1904 Picnic was held in the Street for the first time. Floyd Huff joined his brother and "The Flying Huffs" were an instant success.
To cornmerate the 25th birthday of the town, the 1906 Picnic lasted 4 days. By 1908 the stand rights sold paid for the expenses of the Picnic, and merchants no longer had to contribute. They offered prizes for a variety of contests; wheelbarrow races, tallest man, 100 yd. foot races, largest family at the picnic, oldest man or woman born in Cedar County, sack races, tug of war contests, fat man races, and 50 pounds of flour to the fattest woman at the picnic. This is the year the fireworks blew up. Roman candles and sky rockets were flying through the air in every direction, when a spark landed in the box fireworks. People were running for safety, but no one was injured.
A week long Picnic was held in 1915. Concessions and rides lined Main Street. The Huff Brothers were the main attraction. The Lachman-Lewis Greater Shows carried such rides as a Big Steam Carry Us All, Motordrome, and Ferris Wheel, plus Trip to the Moon. The Southern Plantation Minstrels were also present.
Since 1919 the Picnics have run from two to three days. As an experiment, the Picnic was held on Spring Street in 1932 and was reported a near failure. Sometime around the 50's the Picnic Date has been set for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday closest to July 20 rather than the actual day of the 20th.
History and photographs on this page provided by the El Dorado Springs Preserve Our Past Society and the book "Golden Nuggets of History" available at the Chamber of Commerce.