A good ole' fashioned Fourth
HANNAH FORD MONROE, a teen volunteer for the Sonoma Community Center's Art Camp, helps apply hair to one of the 15-foot tall puppets that will lead the Fourth of July parade.
Put on your best patriotic apparel, pick up your flag and march on downtown to the 2011 Fourth of July Parade and Celebration on the Plaza, one of the annual offerings of the Sonoma Community Center that attracts thousands of visitors. The parade will start at 10 a.m., but the celebration will last all day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by a spectacular showcase of fireworks behind the Gen. Vallejo Home.
With the theme "Saluting Our Local Heroes," the parade will pay tribute to local World War II veterans, specifically those who assisted in the liberation of France, who will serve as Grand Marshals of the parade. Last weekend, replicas of former Valley resident Gen. Hap Arnold's two five-star flags were raised above City Hall in honor of his 125th birthday and the patriotic holiday. The military icon, considered by many to be the "father of the Air Force," retired to Sonoma after WWII. Robert Arnold, Hap Arnold's grandson, will be driving the truck that the Grand Marshal veterans will ride in.
Kicking off the parade of more than 100 floats, bands, classic cars, horses and other entries will be the oversized creations of the Sonoma Community Center. The brainchild of Special Projects Manager Margaret Hatcher, two 15-foot puppets, which are fully animated and take 10 people to operate, will lead the way.
"They're the spirit of the Fourth of July," Hatcher said of the male and female puppets, which were constructed this week with the help of several teenage Art Camp volunteers and Norwegian exchange students visiting Sonoma. "They'll be saluting our local heroes."
Hatcher is known for her elaborate designs, from whimsical willow tree costumes to a massive cake to celebrate Sonoma during the Fourth of July parade last year. But this year's puppets may be her biggest, or at least tallest, endeavor to date.
"I had to outdo the cake from last year," she laughed. "I see Fourth of July as a great opportunity for street art."
There will also be a C-17 Globemaster aircraft flying over the Sonoma Plaza at the beginning of the parade, presented by the 301 Airlift Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Reserve. (See the story on A2 for more details.)
Susan Scarborough and David "Lumpy" Williams will announce the parade. Parade judges will be Suzanne Brangham, Jack Lundgren, Jim and Betty Hall, Tom and Gale Jenkins, and Joe and Susan Ducote.
Parade applications are due by Friday, July 1, for the submission to be announced in the parade, but entries that show up day of the event can still join in the biggest annual parade in the Valley. The community center asks that entries be "G-rated," stay away from negative political messages and, while it is ok to hand out items, things should not be thrown into the crowd.
Even though floats are no longer allowed to soak the crowd with water guns or fire hoses, again this year the parade will end with a wet zone. Tim Gray and his vintage fire truck will wrap up the parade, and once it reaches Spain Street at First Street West, the truck will stop to spray onlookers in the designated wet zone. There, youngsters of all ages will be invited to play in the water, while those who don't wish to get wet should steer clear of the intersection.
"We're trying to train people to hold off on the water until the very end of the parade," said Toni Castrone, event manager at the community center. "It worked well last year, so we think it'll be okay this year."
After the parade, the patriotic ceremonies will include a performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" by Cynthia Tarr, the Travis Air Force Base Color Guard and a speech from Mayor Laurie Gallian.
There will be an abundant supply of games and carnival food during the celebration, offered by a variety of nonprofit organizations from local churches to the Boys and Girls Club (see the sidebar for a full list of vendors). Old favorites such as the dunk tank return, along with some new additions. Larson Family Winery is the official wine sponsor of 2011, with a beer also served throughout the day. The Joe Chaplain Band will be performing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by the Bautista Band from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
As it grows dark, thousands of spectators will gather to watch fireworks blaze through the night sky over the field behind Gen. Vallejo's Home. Produced annually by Sonoma Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association, this year's $10,000 show was paid for by Sarah and Darius Anderson after funding for the display fell short. Throughout the night, the firefighters will begin collecting donations to cover the 2012 firework showcase.