Fourth of July in days gone by

  • Kathy Barboni Madden holds a copy of the Argus-Courier newspaper from July 5, 1955 where she appers in the front page photo twirling a batton at the 4th of July celebration at McNear Park in Petaluma on July 4, 1955.

Be it Butter & Egg Days or Veterans Day, Petaluma loves a good community celebration — and the Fourth of July is no exception.

While a Fourth of July community event has been held at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds for the past few years, longtime residents may recall when the July 4th festivities and fireworks were held in Lucchesi Park, Kenilworth Junior High and at McNear Park.

Kathy (Barboni) Madden grew up in Petaluma and recalls that in 1955 a crowd of 4,000 people crammed into McNear Park for a 10-hour festival that included everything from baseball to barbecues, to model planes, fireworks and a talent show, in which she participated with a dance and baton twirling routine.

"I was with Mackay's Dance Studio, and in those days studios were asked to bring dancers to perform at different functions," said Madden. "I took hula, tap, and baton twirling."

Madden was 13 years old when she performed a tap dance routine and baton twirling for the talent show at the McNear Park Fourth of July event. The Argus-Courier snapped a photo of Madden during the baton twirling performance, which made it into the paper on July 5, 1955. She still has the newspaper clipping.

"I think I won second place for my performance," said Madden. "The photo was taken during my baton twirling routine."

According to the 1955 article in the Argus, the Fourth of July festival attracted the biggest crowds the event had seen up to that point.

"It was a lot of fun and there was a huge crowd there that day," Madden recalled. "Just like now at the fairgrounds, there was a lot of activities going on. Then they had the fireworks in the evening. I remember it was a fun day."

While the location of the community celebration has changed over the years, what has stayed the same is Petaluma's love of coming together to honor the birth of the nation.

This year's Fourth of July celebration in Petaluma begins with the traditional bell ringing ceremony on the steps of the Petaluma Museum. The ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m., with the bell ringing beginning at 11 a.m.

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