|Turning 50 – RP style
Huge crowd helps city celebrate its anniversary
This past Saturday, Sept. 15, marked 50 years several families have been calling Rohnert Park their home. Under the bright morning sun and a crisp blue sky, families walked together with neighbors to join in the festivities taking place at the RP Community Center on the corner of Snyder Lane and Rohnert Park Expressway. Not in recent memory has there been such a show of familiar faces and places that make up the fabric of Rohnert Park, woven together in celebration.
The feeling of unity was felt by young and old as stories were shared, new memories made and the reconnecting of community spirit ignited. The parade began at 10 a.m., and people from A section to S section and every residential section in between, walked together to line the streets and cheer on historical leaders of RP’s past and its current set of leaders – from Pete Callinan to Jake Mackenzie – who were riding with family members in convertible cars.
For almost two hours, businesses, schools and organizations of the "Friendly City" marched down Snyder Lane, starting at Lawrence Jones Middle School to Rancho Cotate High School, showing their civic pride as throngs watched and cheered.
In front of the Rohnert Park Community Center, morning personality "Dr. Doug" Dodds from KTRY radio introduced the participating units, and local favorite DJ Dennis Anderson kept the enthusiasm level high with music throughout the procession.
At the center of the parade was the beloved Rancho Cotate High football team, which was sporting their white jerseys a day after annihilating Petaluma High, 39-0, the night before. In fact, the parade doubled as Rancho Cotate's homecoming parade, as it did for many of the schools and other groups celebrating their semi-centennial.
An outsider with RP connections was the overall winner of the Mr. Lucky Legs contest. Ralph Knecht is a police officer from Sacramento, but his wife, Katie, is an RP native. His wife is the daughter of Chris Callinan. RP Police Chief Brian Masterson won for the hairiest legs.
Reed’s Hair Barn was the superior team in the Bed Races. The races included an entries by Rohnert Park’s city council and city staff. When the two teams squared off, Mayor Jake Mackenzie, Councilman Amy Ahonatu, Councilman Joseph Callinan and Councilwoman Gina Belforte pushed their rolling bed, which included Councilwoman Pam Stafford, to a comfortable victory.
The celebrating continued as the fireworks display began and could be seen through kitchen windows and on back porches all throughout the city. For many Rohnert Park residents, recent and long-time, the event was appreciated and enjoyed. But the festivities did not, however, go off without a hitch.
For the considerable number of disabled residents in Rohnert Park, attending the celebration proved to challenge their different abilities. Parking, legally set aside for the handicapped, had been sectioned off and reserved by the city for their VIP’s, none of which had disabled plaques displayed on their vehicles.
Quoted in the Rohnert Park Patch on Sunday 9/16/12, Kimberley Peterson Roberts, in a post on Rohnert Park Patch on Sept. 16, stated, “It was a fantastic day…I do have one huge complaint, the fact the city would tell the handicapped people to park in Rancho High's parking lot is ridiculous…really not cool.”
Other residents agreed with similar complaints such as Karina Wilcox, who also posted comments on Rohnert Park Patch’s site on Sunday, September 16th. “I too thought Rohnert Parks 50th was wonderful, but as I have posted in other places, I had family members that were turned away and are handicapped.”
As with any large convergence of community members, the strengths and weakness of that community are revealed. With this dialog, it is a clear signal the differently abled members of our community are underrepresented. Perhaps, the next obvious move is to start a committee so this segment is equally represented within Rohnert Park. To be sure, this conversation will be noted and suggestions for accommodations at future city events are already being submitted.
As for now, many smiles were seen citywide this weekend.