Cotatiís 50th birthday a smashing success
Kids Day draws its usual large crowd to park
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By Natalie Gray  July 19, 2013 12:00 am

This past Saturday, July 13, Cotati proved it really does only get better with age as the city celebrated the 50th anniversary of it becoming an incorporated city in conjunction with the 21st annual Cotati Kids Day.

The day began early in the morning with a free pancake breakfast and annual Kids Day Parade and continued on with a day-long celebration in La Plaza Park with games for kids, food, wine and beer and the ending headliner, Pride and Joy.

“That’s the beauty of watching kids and families (at these events),” said Cotati Vice-Mayor John Dell’Osso. “There’s so much work involved putting something like this on…When you see the families all having a great time, it’s worth it.”

Cotati’s 50th and Kids Day Celebration was actually created by a collaborated effort from the City of Cotati, the Cotati Chamber of Commerce and Cotati’s Historical Society. The event was funded by a series of donations and hosted by volunteers.


Kids, adults crowd park

Early on July 13, the streets of Cotati were roped off to make way for the Kids Day Parade. The usually quiet La Plaza Park was crowded with brightly colored tents, the smell of at least a dozen food stands and teeming with people – citizens, visitors, kids and parents alike. There was even a goat or two and, of course, the large fountain in the center of the park was decorated to resemble that of a giant birthday cake, complete with 50 candles.

By 9 a.m., an hour before the parade began, the sidewalk and crosswalks were already full of spectators. Some may have just come from the free pancake breakfast at the Church of the Oaks. The theme this year was, as to be expected, “Cotati’s 50th Birthday” and was kicked off with the march of the flag bearers and a quick, but sweet “Happy Birthday” song to the town.


Creative license

The kids and parade participants (some nonprofit organizations, commercial organizations and youth programs) took creative license this year with the theme. Classical cars and trucks were decorated with birthday streamers and banners, like the one entered by the Cotati Historical Society, also carrying a large, decorative birthday cake and Parade Grand Marshal and Cotati historian Prue Draper.  Friar Tucks Pub’s “Four Wheel Drive Drill Team” arrived on dirt bikes and pool noodle-made birthday candles strapped to their heads.

The parade also saw a “Lost in Space” inspired spaceship float by Ian Higgins, a tiny pink dog, former Cotati mayors, a clown and even an appearance by Miss Sonoma County, Ashley Kimball in a bubble-gum pink party gown and tiara. Clo the Cow from Clover Milk also made an appearance as well as the Kids Day number one sponsor, The Ratto Group, in a truck advocating to “green your school.”

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Cotati celebration without a few accordions. The Best Overall Entry award was given to the Cotati Historical Society.

“I liked it all,” said Cotati resident Debra Dunckley of the parade. Dunckley and her family have been going to Kids Day since the very first one in 1992. The day usually falls on or around her son’s birthday, and he rode his bicycle in the first Kids Day Parade. “This is the biggest I’ve ever seen it.”

Just because the parade had ended did not mean Kids Day was over. The festival in La Plaza Park featured a number of kid-friendly activities, like a woodworking workshop hosted by Lowe’s Home Improvement, face painting, henna and glitter tattoos and Lego tables where kids were invited to build creations. 

Also going on were a couple of races and friendly competitions at the main stage, hosted by Fiz-Nik Rick. Kids were invited to a Diaper Derby, a relay race, a bubble gum blowing contest and a cupcake-eating contest, sponsored by Sift Cupcakes. Miss Sonoma County even joined in the fun, and walking through the park to entertain kids was the Rancho Cotate High School’s Cougar mascot and a few Disney princesses.


Cake and thanks

At 1 p.m., a giant cake (this one real) was brought out before the stage and another round of “Happy Birthday” was sung. Thanks you’s were handed out, some to Prue Draper, some to council members and former mayors.

“We came here in 1956…all this (La Plaza Park) was just empty and dirt,” said Bill Kortum, who was invited to cut the cake. Kortum opened the first veterinary hospital in Cotati and personally saw that empty patch of dirt turn into La Plaza Park. Though he laughed, he did claim that yes, he did indeed imagine an event such as the Kids Day and 50th anniversary one day take place on the park when it was first created.

Pride and Joy took to the stage at around 2 p.m., performing popular pop and soul hits for the remainder of the day. Spectators danced in their seats and some even weaved their way through the haystack-seats to dance before the stage, ending the festival with rhythm, energy and huge smiles. 

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