Richard Harryman celebrated his 30th birthday on board the glittering "Birthday Bash Float" at the 31st annual Butter & Egg Days Parade. Harryman is a "huge fan of the Butter & Egg Days festival," according to the float description, and so friends and family put together the float to celebrate Harryman's birthday and that of his 1-year-old nephew, Owen.
Harryman wasn't the only one for which Butter & Egg Days has become a family affair. Of the roughly 25,000 people who attended Saturday's event, many were regulars, watching the procession closely in the hopes of spotting a friend or family member in the parade, or a favorite act, like the shuffling, slapstick Nave Patrola.
Laura and Doug Bradley, for instance, showed up to watch their son, a senior, march through in the Casa Grande marching band, playing trombone. It would be the last of many times they'd watched their son and daughter perform in the parade in junior high and high school marching bands.
But in addition to the parade's local appeal, it also had a broader draw, attracting newcomers and far-flung travelers.
Just down the sidewalk from the Bradleys stood a young couple, Andrew and Claire Wieszcyk, who had just recently moved to Petaluma from San Francisco.
"We're trying to do all the parades," Andrew Wieszcyk said, standing with his dog, Rosie.
Another woman travelled from San Diego to enter her child in the Cutest Little Chick Contest, recalled Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association, which produces the annual parade and street fair.
"I never heard of anyone coming that far; it makes me smile," she said. "We're a hometown parade, but it obviously brings interest (from outside), and bringing people to town is really important."
Radio Disney also showed up to join in the festivities, McCusker added, another indication that the event is catching national attention.
While the Butter & Egg Days festivities lasted throughout the day, with delicious smells filling the air, packed beer gardens, a children's play area complete with livestock, and special events like the Cutest Little Chick contest and Cow Chip Tossing contest, the parade itself seemed to be the real draw.
At sunrise on Saturday, the downtown sidewalks were already lined with chairs facing the streets on which the parade would wind its way through town.
By the time the parade started, the sidewalks were packed with people. Young children in bright dresses and floppy hats played as they waited for it to start; couples leading both tiny dogs and giant dogs paused to allow the animals to sniff, women in sun hats chatted, and tattooed teens on skateboards wound their way through the crowd. Occasionally, someone carrying a bleating kid goat worked his way back to the petting zoo, completing a scene that was unique to Petaluma.
Then the parade kicked off, and the crowd turned to watch as vintage cars, floats, dancers and marching bands made their way through Petaluma.
When it was over, Clover Stornetta Farms took the high honor, the Sweepstakes prize, for its theme, "River of Creams."
The Helen Putnam award for historic theme went to the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Park Association, for its float that meticulously recreated scenes of Petaluma history centered around General Mariano G. Vallejo of the Petaluma Adobe.
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