Fourth fun for everyone

Now that Sonoma is officially the eighth best town in America in which to celebrate the Fourth of July – at least according to Travel + Leisure magazine – expectations are running high for today’s festivities.

The 51st annual Fourth of July Parade and Festival, sponsored and produced by the Sonoma Community Center, leads off the day’s activities, beginning at 10 a.m., a time when everyone attending will want to have already parked their cars far from the Plaza. Those wanting to bike to the parade can take advantage of a free valet bike parking service near the bike path in Depot Park.

Parade rules once again prohibit throwing water balloons, candy or – in fact – anything at all. The usual wet zone will again be located at the First Street West-West Spain Street intersection, where and antique fire truck will unleash a fire hose on anyone wanting to be soaked.

The theme for this year’s parade is “The Arts in Sonoma Valley.” Community Center Executive Director Toni Castrone points out, “The arts are a vital component of a healthy community, and we’re fortunate to live in a community that values its artists and supports creativity.”

Grand marshals for the parade will be past recipients of Sonoma’s Treasure Artist award. Dignitaries present on the parade grounds will include Sonoma Valley’s Alcaldessa Suzanne Brangham, 2014 Treasure Artist Dave Aguilar, members of the Sonoma City Council, and 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin. The Sonoma Community Center will carry on its tradition of leading off the parade with a one-of-a-kind float, designed and created by its Special Projects Manager Margaret Hatcher. Hatcher is the designer behind many of the Center’s most eye-catching visual displays, including its Trashion Fashion Show, held each spring.

The parade will march its way from the intersection of First Street East and East Spain Street, west along Napa Street, and end at the intersection of First Street West and West Spain Street.

Live entertainment will begin in the Plaza at 11:30 a.m. with a concert from the Hometown Band. A patriotic ceremony will honor parade dignitaries at 11:45 a.m. At 1 p.m., Never Fear Band will kick off the afternoon with live music on the grass, followed by 2014 Sonoma Valley Treasure Artist Dave Aguilar’s band, Tudo Bem at 3 p.m.

As spectators line up around the Plaza to view the parade, nearly a dozen Sonoma Valley nonprofit organizations will sell food and run game booths. Traditional carnival fare will include such favorites as hot dogs, hamburgers, turkey legs, ice cream sandwiches, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy and iced coffee. Beer and wine have been donated by Little Family Vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu, Lagunitas Brewing Company and Lost Coast Brewery, and will be for sale from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All proceeds from beer and wine sales will benefit Sonoma Community Center.

In addition to help from the City of Sonoma, and individual donations from parade entrants, this year’s Fourth of July parade and celebration is supported and sponsored by Sonoma Market, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In honor of that milestone, Sonoma Market has announced it will make a $10,000 donation to the Community Center to help support its Trashion Fashion show and free community events.

And then at dusk, the skies will light up with the gala fireworks display at the Gen. Vallejo Home. The display is put on by the Sonoma Valley Volunteer Firefighters.