With creativity and determination, little ideas can grow into great results. The Cambrian‘s late columnistJohn Brannon teamed up with Susan McDonald “over a cup of coffee” with his idea to “Save the Bianchini,” an 1870 house at the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street. The dilapidated structure had been languishing there for 30 years since the last of the three Bianchini bachelors had died, with the property entangled in the County Probate Court. There already had been previous unresolved legal battles for many years before that.
Interested neighbors, many still currently involved in the Cambria community, had saved the property onto the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s because of its significance typifying architectural changes over the years. Despite that, some local residents were doubtful that the efforts would succeed. The little Cambria Historical Society (CHS)—which had been established in 1990 by such people of influence as Ken Cooper, Wilfred Lyons, Bruce Black, Sharon Lovejoy, and Kathe Tanner—tackled the project which was spearheaded by McDonald and Brannon.
When the house and the three lots on which it stands was placed on the market by the Probate Court around 2000, CHS was ready to commit to a half-million dollar mortgage. CHS began fundraising efforts, even though other major nonprofits also were saving properties such as the Fiscalini Ranch and Greenspace at the same time. The Cambria community responded with open hearts and open pocketbooks, and all ultimately succeeded.
Beginning in the early 2000s, a garden party at Robin’s expanded each year to include Heart’s Ease and then The Squibb House and Bucket of Blood. The events were known as Heritage Day and further expanded to a two-day event. When reconstruction was ongoing, the event was held up Bridge Street on the original Phelan Ranch near the community cemetery, with everything including participants hauled up on wagons as had been done in the early days of Cambria’s celebrations. Once the Museum was opened in 2008, Bev and Jerry Praver set up a table for pumpkin carving to attract visitors during the quiet fall season.
Thus was born the Cambria Harvest Festival, whose popularity grew to being the major fundraiser to support the museum operations and scholarships. Over time, the event expanded to a four-day event, complete with a pie tasting contest and display for 30 scarecrows. Heritage Day became an opportunity to display and demonstrate all things old fashioned. Sponsorship for the Scarecrow Festival passed on to its own nonprofit organization as popularity increased participation to 100, then 300, and spread beyond historic village to the rest of town and other communities. “The little organization with the big dreams” continues to serve its communities.