Bear Flag Celebration Sunday
The Bear Flag Revolt reenactment highlights the day
Index-Tribune file photo
With the weather finally cooperating, the Bear Flag Celebration is set to engulf the Plaza this Sunday, bringing a chicken barbecue and Microbrew Festival with it. The day is sponsored by the Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor #111, who spend the year not only working their own fundraisers, but also helping with almost every major event in Sonoma, providing manpower and experience to help nonprofits raise the most money possible.
"We've worked really hard to make ourselves available to the community," said Dean Zellers, a grand trustee of the Grand Parlor of the Sons. "We do the things that need to get done to make their event a success."
But this Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Sons host their own event, which is steeped in historical significance. In 1914, the Native Sons wanted to create a monument to commemorate the Bear Flag Revolt.
"We dragged that giant rock down from the quarry," Zellers said, referring to the large boulder the statue sits on. The Grand Parlor, the elected body that represents all Native Son Parlors, came to Sonoma to celebrate the occasion with a chicken barbecue, and a tradition was born. In 1909, the Native Sons used its influence on the State Legislator to have the Bear Flag declared the state flag of California.
This year, festivities begin at 11 a.m. with a ceremony at the Bear Flag Monument, where a proclamation will be read. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the barbecue will be blazing and hundreds will get served heaping plates of chicken and side dishes (adult plates are $12, children's hot dog plates are $4).
For $25, attendees can get an all-access pass to the Microbrew Festival, where 25 brewers will be serving up around 60 styles of beer - more variety than ever before.
"It should be the best year ever," Zellers beamed.
A favorite of the celebration is always the historical reenactment of that fateful day when a group of Californios stormed Sonoma intent on securing the state from Mexican rule. One of the most important moments in the State's history, the Bear Flag Revolt Acting Troupe has relived the events of that day during the Bear Flag Celebration for the past five years. The troupe has around 25 members who create their own costumes and come together to bring history to life for spectators.
"It's all real loosey goosey, which is part of its charm," said George Webber, who founded the troupe and wrote the script for the reenactment. "I will do it every year for the Native Sons as long as they'll have me. They're pros."
The reenactment takes place at 1 p.m. in the Grinstead Amphitheater, with live blackpowder gun shots courtesy of the Native Sons of the Golden West in Auburn. The theatrical history presentation will be followed by live music from BackTrax.
Proceeds from the event will go toward grants the Native Sons give out to various nonprofits and community organizations. Zellers said in 2010, the Sons gave small grants to 29 different groups last year. The organization typically raises $30,000 a year with events like the Bartender Battle, Surf and Turf Dinner and the Bear Flag Celebration.
But in addition to financially supporting Valley nonprofits, the Sons provide manpower for dozens of events each year, including Relay For Life, the Sonoma International Film Festival, the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, Sonoma Valley High School's Grad Night and B.R. Cohn's Fall Charity Music Festival. From providing security and directing traffic to setting up or cleaning up events, the Sons do whatever is asked of them to help the day run smoothly.
"Our guys probably work two weekends every month," Zellers said. "I don't think you could pay guys and get the professionalism you get out of the Sons."
The Sons strive for professionalism, routinely work with the Sonoma Police Department to get training in traffic control and public safety issues. The police department recently hosted a program sponsored by Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that certified more than a dozen Native Sons to safely serve alcohol at community events.
"Eighty percent of our events involve alcohol so this is really important for us," Zellers said.
The Native Sons meet on a monthly basis to discuss upcoming events, socialize and check in on members. The only requirement to join the group is that the member must be born in the state of California. Sonoma's Parlor #111 is the 10th largest in the state.
For more on the Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor #111, visit www.sonomanativesons.org or call Zellers at 996-5282.