Q. Prior to the start of Maple Leaf Festival in 1958, Baldwin City had hosted a series of similar festivities from 1930 through 1940. What was the name of the earlier annual festival?
A. It was known as The Santa Fe Trail Picnic.
Q. Why was the name, “Santa Fe Trail Picnic” chosen?
A. The roadway (now known as U.S. Highway 56) through southern Douglas County was being converted to a concrete paved highway, with the ultimate goal of having a highway roughly paralleling the old Santa Fe Trail. The first leg of that work was being completed from Baldwin to the intersection with what is now U.S. Highway 59 at Baldwin Junction, a total of 4.169 miles. The north-south highway was already paved by this time. There were about 5,000 persons who attended the christening of the new road at Baldwin Junction and then drove down the new highway to Baldwin for a basket picnic on Baker campus. This was such a popular event that it was decided to hold the picnic on an annual basis, in honor of the old Santa Fe Trail.
Q. Why was the creation of this new highway such an important event in the community?
A. It allowed the Baldwin City residents the opportunity to “go places” (such as Lawrence and Ottawa) using the new “all weather roadway” without having to worry about rain. Mud roads did not allow for travel when wet. Gravel was being installed on the road to the east of Baldwin, with later plans to connect to Johnson County.
Q. A special event was planned for the 1938 Santa Fe Trail Picnic. Can you guess what it was?
A. A soap-box derby was included. Rules included: The car must be made entirely by the boy who rides in it; The car may be long as desired, but not wider than 3 feet.
Q. Why did the Santa Fe Trail Picnic fail to continue in 1941 after 11 successful years?
A. The 1940 picnic review states that the talent show was so successful that it would be included in the plans for 1941. However, when the Baldwin organizations and volunteers were invited to a meeting to plan the 1941 picnic, only five persons attended the meeting. It was decided due to “lack of interest” to not continue the picnics. I’m sure the world war situation probably had some impact on the availability of the volunteers.