Petalumans flock to Butter - Egg Days

Petalumans celebrated their city's roots as the Egg Basket of the World and, more recently, a dairy center on Saturday with the annual Butter - Egg Days parade and festival.

Police said more than 30,000 people flocked to downtown Petaluma for the parade that featured farmers and politicians, marching bands and marching veterans, and of course plenty of butter and egg producers.

"It's about hometown pride and the opportunity to exemplify the generosity that makes Petaluma unique," said Ross Jones, vice president of the Petaluma Downtown Association, the event organizer. "Today, we're celebrating all things hatched, incubated, planted and raised in our hometown."

The tribute to local farming is in its 33rd year since its revival in 1981, though old-timers recall that the parade began in 1918 and was not held for a number of years.

Erika Cubba, 74, remembers marching in the parade in the 1950s. She said she came down to stake a spot along the parade route at 8 a.m. and was surprised to find most of the curbside space occupied well ahead of the noon start. Cubba said she loves to watch the high school bands.

"It's still a local event with a lot of local products," she said. "It's a good chance to get together as a community, see old friends."

Before the parade, local officials kicked off the festivities with the traditional cow-pie throwing contest. Police Chief Patrick Williams launched his painted cow pie farther than Petaluma Fire battalion chief Jeff Schach to win the Battle of the Badge.

"I went with the overhand method," Chief Williams said of his strategy. "It was like a Tim Lincecum fastball."

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, whose toss was well short of that of most of the Petaluma City Council members, said the two-day festival encapsulates Petaluma.

"It's a great community event," he said. "It represents our agricultural roots and the sense of our small town."

The festival continues today when more than 180 dealers descend on downtown for the Spring Antique Faire.

The Petaluma Egg Farms Cutest Little Chick Contest, another festival tradition, was awarded to Farrah Caldwell, a Penngrove 1-year-old dressed in a yellow feathered tutu with a matching headband and legwarmers.

Her mother, Jen Caldwell, who spent a couple days making the costume, said she was thrilled to win.

"We've been coming to the parade for years," she said. "We couldn't wait for our baby to be in it."

Little Farrah, with two bottom teeth in her award-winning smile, said only "Dada" to father Casey Caldwell.

Festival-goers munched on burritos and burgers. There was plenty of local ale flowing at the beer garden sponsored by Petaluma brewers Lagunitas, Dempsey's and HenHouse. Petaluma police, stationed just outside the packed beer garden, reported no major incidents.

Some took out their frustration by throwing balls at the dunk tank, where U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, donned shorts and a T-shirt and took the plunge into chilly water to raise money to fight cancer.

"Five bucks and you get to dunk your congressman," the booth organizer announced.

Huffman said he was helping raise money for a good cause.

"I signed up for this," he said. Of the water, he added, "It's cold."

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.