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Celebrating 75 Years

“Thunder Afloat” was dazzling audiences at the Fox Theater, while Mixters Drug welcomed patrons on the corner of Main and Court. A gallon of gas was 10 cents, and a dozen eggs could be purchased for only 29 cents.

A different world than we see today, November 1939 marked the month and year that brought the birth of the City of Visalia Parks & Recreation Department.

Celebrating our 75th anniversary, 1939 marks the year that the precursor to the Park & Recreation Department first came into being when the City Council created the first five-member Parks, Playgrounds and Recreation Commission.

“The Commission worked hand in hand with the citizens of the community,” shares Vince Elizondo, Parks & Recreation Director. “Together they created the vision for the park system and the diverse recreation programs that we enjoy today.”

While the famous operetta “Naughty Marietta” was playing at the Montgomery Auditorium (now the L. J. Williams Theater), Visalia hired Dick Whitmore  as the first Director of the department. Tasked with carrying out the vision of the community, the Commission and the City Council, Whitmore helped create the foundation on which today’s Department stands.

“To be healthy and thrive, we have always needed a strong sense of community, public places for people to gather, green spaces such as parks and trails, recreation and wellness programs, and community services,” states Elizondo. “Visalia is to be congratulated for fulfilling that need for 75 very successful years.”

A community staple, today the Department provides hundreds of classes, programs, events and services for tens of thousands of residents each year. With sports and enrichment programming for youth; top notch adult sports leagues and community events, the Department also hosts hundreds of thousands of people in the City’s parks, trails, plazas, and playgrounds each year. That’s a lot to celebrate!

To mark turning 75, the Parks & Recreation Department is issuing a special “Live & Play” in late January featuring historical photos, special events throughout the year are planned, and a special section will be coming to www.liveandplayvisalia.com that will continue the work as we learn about our heritage, connect with various stakeholders and celebrate with the community.

“This is a momentous opportunity to commemorate a milestone for the Parks & Recreation Department and the City of Visalia,” adds Elizondo. “I welcome everyone to join in this celebration as we mark 75 years as a cornerstone of the community while looking towards the opportunities of the future.”

Celebrate with Visalia Parks & Recreation by posting your photos to our Facebook page or on Twitter with the hashtag #VisaliaParks75 and share your memories with us. You might just be featured in the next Live & Play!

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