Rain fell as citizens of Rohnert Park came out to the Spreckels Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 51st anniversary of Rohnert Park, Founder’s Day. The Saturday event kicked off with the fourth annual, “Running with the Pack” 5k at 8 a.m., a fundraiser to support the Special Olympics, followed by the Founder’s Day Parade at 10 a.m. Beginning at Lawrence E. Jones Middle School on Snyder Lane, the parade travelled approximately 0.7 miles to Rancho Cotate High School.
Rohnert Park was incorporated as a city in August of 1962 and the city celebrated its 50th anniversary last summer. Fifteen-thousand citizens attended last year’s parade, as reported by The Press Democrat. Due to the success of last year, the Founder’s Day Parade and Festival was revitalized and brought back to the community. The city of Rohnert Park now combines with Rancho Cotate’s homecoming parade and organizes a festival to go along with the celebration.
The parade consisted of Rohnert Park local business members, elected officials, Miss Sonoma County, the Rancho Cotate High School football team, marching band and cheer team as well as other community groups, such as the local roller derby team, the Resurrection Roller Girls.
The Sonoma State Athletic Association followed this year’s theme, “What’s your Favorite Story or Book,” and participated in the parade with a Jack London inspired float. Sonoma State students and athletes walked along in the parade, displaying banners and waving flags. Other students rode in the back of a truck-converted float to represent The Sonoma State Athletic Association. The university mascot, Lobo, also participated as he walked along with students and their float.
Following the parade, a festival took place in the outside quad area of the Spreckels Performing Arts Center beginning at 11 a.m., which included live music, food, wine tasting, races, contests, and shopping. Popular food venders included “Mama Nita’s Filipino Hut,” “Bloomfield Bees Honey,” and “Hot Diggity Dog.” Live music included “Paulies Garage,” a Santa Rosa rock band, “The Sorentinos,” and “The Poyntlyss Sistars Rockin Show Band.”
During “Paulies Garage” performance, Rohnert Park citizens danced inside the community center with one another under the disco ball, and sang along to familiar songs. Others sat in the audience and observed as band members freestyled with their instruments on stage, and even came out into the crowd.
“I think the event was terrific, those who braved the weather had a good time. All of the bands who played, were on their A game and were able to think on their feet and move inside,” said marketing committee member and vocalist of The Poyntlyss Sistars Rockin Show Band Cathy Slack.
Outside of the music hall, rows of tables were set up for a book fair, along with arts and crafts and other shopping. Local venders sold handcrafted animal-shaped wooden pens, scarves, jewelry, clothing and other trinkets. Many other booths were giving away free promotional items, such as pens, stickers, candy and tote bags.
People of all ages came out to celebrate Rohnert Park, including families and many Sonoma State students, who could be distinguished by their various SSU affiliated apparel. Children walked around with their faces painted and balloons tied around their wrists and multiple adolescent ballerinas in full costume walked together from booth to booth.
“It’s fun to come out and become more involved in the local community. I am always looking for new things to do around town and the Founder’s Day parade and festival has good food and music,” said student Tina Harrison.
“I came to watch the parade, which was exciting even though it was raining. My favorite float was the Wizard of Oz float that had a lot of impressive detail,” said Sabrina Sihakom, also an SSU student.
The night ended at 7 p.m. with a closing performance by the local four-woman dance band The Poyntlyss Sistars Rockin Show Band.