A great party
If you chose July 4 to touch the social soul of Sonoma, you probably struck gold.
We don’t have an official count yet – and accurately mapping a mass of humanity packed around the perimeter and clotted throughout the interior of an eight-acre square may not even be possible – but utilizing our own professional journalistic skills, we estimated there were approximately 11 bajillion people crowded into and around the Sonoma Plaza on Wednesday, and they were having, as far as we could tell with those same professional reporting tools, a very, very good time.
A significant percentage of those approximately 11 bajillion people must have come from outside the Valley, because (utilizing, again, the aforementioned skills) we estimated there were about 37,000 people actually in the parade, including 83 percent of all children living within a 15-mile radius of the Plaza.
The karate contingent alone – we counted armies of young ninjas from at least four schools or board-breaking programs – included enough ferocious warriors to invade North Korea, or at least Napa, and while their start-and-stop kata demonstrations sometimes slowed the parade to a tedious crawl, we can’t fault their enthusiasm or their fierce energy.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley also mustered an army of mostly young marchers in matching blue T-shirts celebrating the organization’s 50 years in Sonoma.
There were Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sea Dragons.
There were real warriors present in great numbers, including veterans of at least five wars, many of them motorcycle-mounted.
And there was a river of sweets, riding the current of the parade and distributed in the eddies of waiting childrens’ hands, then carefully aggregated into piles of loot on the sun-baked asphalt where chocolate quickly turned to soup.
There were, all told, 115 official entries and another 30 or so that just showed up Wednesday morning. The rules of the game are that essentially anyone can enter, even – we suppose – a parrot on a pogo stick. And it’s free, although donations are gratefully accepted.
Among the dignitaries was Alcalde Whitney Evans, Treasure Dennis Ziemienski, and 92-year-old Betty Meyers, whose birthday falls on the 4th and who beamed at the crowd from a wheelchair pushed the full parade route by her 7-year-old great-granddaughter Rhiannon Meyers.
Also present was recovering assault victim Austin Ridge riding his new tricycle to joyous applause from the crowd.
Count Agoston Haraszthy, was there, too, towering 10 feet over the throng, his enormous right puppet hand clutching a magnum bottle of what looked like Buena Vista cabernet.
The ubiquitous George Webber, now professionally invested in the persona of Haraszthy, was present as his new alter ego with a woman who appeared to be the count’s long-suffering wife, Eleonora.
It is this deep vein of history that infuses our Fourth of July celebration with an extra dimension of meaning, a living link to the past of Sonoma, of California and of the American West.
But more than that was the opportunity for this unique community to manifest itself as a social organism united in celebration regardless of the countless differences that divide us. It was a great party.