In 1919, a group of interested citizens met and organized the "Welcome Home and Memorial Association", the purpose of which was to sponsor a celebration to welcome home the service men of World War I. The celebration was held in August 1919. The streets were beautifully decorated, a large arch was constructed on South Lincoln Avenue, the parade drew very favorable comment, in short, the celebration was a huge success.
An excerpt from the June 12 1919 O'Fallon Progress read:
CELEBRATION PLANNED FOR LABOR DAY
"One of the biggest celebrations ever held in O'Fallon is planned for Labor Day, September 1(1919) . This was decided on at a meeting of the arrangement committee of the O'Fallon Welcome Home and Memorial Association held Monday evening.
The affair is to be in honor of the boys of O'Fallon and vicinity who took part in the World War. The committee is making arrangements to make the celebration a gala day for the city and boys who were in the service of their country. All labor unions and other organizations will be asked to take part. The committee requests that every organization inin the city be represented at the next meeting, which will be held on Monday, July 14th. It is expected that final arrangements for the celebration will be completed at this meeting."
In September, 1920, The O'Fallon Progress editorially advocated an annual Homecoming and Fall Festival but nothing was done about it. In 1922, the O'Fallon Homecoming and Fall Festival Association was formed and sponsored a homecoming for that year and subsequent years until 1942. The profit from these affairs over the years has been utilized in the development of beautiful Community Park. In addition to the expenditure of money by the Association, time and money has [sic] been generously donated by various organizations and individuals of the city to promote and develop the park.
On September 24, 1924, the trustees of O'Fallon Homecoming and Fall Festival bought from Mrs. Mary E. Atkinson 20 acres of land for a consideration of $10,000.00. This land composes the original portion of the present park. On August 28, 1928, the association pruchased from James T. and Elizabeth A. Holliday sufficient land to make the north entrance into the park from Fourth street by way of Apple street. The consideration paid was $100.00.
In July 1925, a colored drawing, 61/2 by 31/2 feet, showing the proposed plan for the O'Fallon Community Park was prominently displayed in the window of W. W. Thomas Hardware. For a time, these plans had to be set aside for lack of funds. In recent years, funds again being available, many improvements have been made to the park. Perhaps, some time in the near future, our Community Park will possess all those improvements shown in the original plan.
The first carload of structural steel for the building of the hall at Community Park arrived on May 27, 1926. The building 80 by 120 feet was estimated to cost between $12,000 and $15,000. Much of the labor on the building was donated by interested citizens.
In 1926, the Homecoming was held in the new park. Prior to that time the celebrations had been held in City Park.
In 1942, the Homecoming was suspended as it was deemed advisable to discontinue the celebration with so many of the community's men away from home serving in the Armed Forces. However, the spirit was kept alive during the war period by a group known as the O'Fallon Welcome Home Association which made plans for a welcome home to the returning service men. On August 24 and 25, 1946 this celebration was held after which the homecoming was reestablished under the sponsorship of the O'Fallon Homecoming and Fall Festival.
During the period 1942 to 1946 the hall at Community Park was leased to the Independent Engineering Company for use as a warehouse.
On November 1, 1945, Walter W. Thomas, treasurer of the association, paid off the remaining bonds totaling $2,500 and the Community Park for the first time was debt free.
The association on March 15, 1946 voted to deed to the City of O'Fallon the park which was then debt free. At an election held May 28, 1946, the citizens of O'Fallon by a vote of 163 to 40 sanctioned the transfer of the park to city ownership. Accordingly, on November 1, 1946 the association conveyed to the City of O'Fallon title to the park.
The first Park Board named by Mayor Henry M. Hesse on September 12, 1946 to govern the park was composed of the following: I. R. Cartier, John L. Anheuser, Harry Klingelhoefer, L. E. Schwarz, and Delbert Corbier.
On August 1, 1950, the association bought 15.7 acres of land from William G. Willard for $1,000 an acre. This land joins the original park on the east. Some of the funds necessary to make this purchase were raised by the sale of bonds to citizens of O'Fallon. These bonds have now been retired through payments from current earnings. The land was immediately conveyed by deed to the City of O'Fallon.
During the 1950's, the dream of the association is the construction of a swimming pool. In September 1953, the association set aside $1,000.00 as the first funds toward such a project.
In May 1954, a permanent concession building was built in the park. This building complete with fine facilities for the serving of food and drinks will be available for use by all organizations using the park for picnics.
O'Fallon is proud of its community park--built and paid for by the labor of the citizens of the city. In more recent years the Homecoming Association has assisted in the purchase of Hesse Community Park; constructed new dugouts on Diamond #1 at the Community Park, purchased new bleachers for Hesse and Community Parks, sponsored the Summer Concerts at the Community Park and assisted the Women's Club with the costs of the toddlers playground equipment in the Community Park, Hesse Park, and the pocket park downtown.
Beginning in 1992 the O'Fallon Homecoming has planned and presented a Christmas parade in December featuring iluminated floats. The theme of the parade has been "Old Fashioned Christmas".
It takes a lot of planning and hard work to put on the three day Homecoming picnic and the Christmas parade. All the work is done by volunteers. New members are always welcome.
The funds earned by the association at the annual homecoming celebrations have been, indeed, invested wisely and well evidenced by the beautiful Community Parks.