Last Saturday Cotati celebrated the 25th annual Cotati Kids’ Day parade and festival, and this benchmark anniversary did not disappoint with a new specific theme of, “Cotati Celebrates Culture.”
“That’s a quarter of a century!,” said John Allred about the special anniversary as he prepared to MC the parade Saturday morning. “I like that this special anniversary is about celebrating your heritage and culture. It seems like the event gets better every year – there are so many things to see and do!”
And indeed there was no shortage of games, entertainment, and family fun.
Activities of the day focused on the “Cotati Celebrates Culture” theme, honoring a variety of cultures and traditions, from a “Hawaiian hottie relay race”, in which teams of children dressed in Hawaiian grass skirts, hats and flowered leis raced to see which team collected the most seashells, to cultural dancing, where attendees could learn and join in cultural folk dances of Mexico, Israel, Italy and Africa. Groups of children from All Star Kids, Alchemia, and Music to My Ears performed various music in the afternoon.
Notable groups included Star Kids Productions, whose culture-centric float titled “Children around the World,” featuring a giant globe, and whose performance of dancing to “It’s a Small World After All,” won them the “Best in Parade” prize. “Best Group” was won by the Cotati Historical Society, “Best Individual in Parade” was won by Grace Lawrence, and “Best Business” went to Music to My Ears.
After filling their bellies with free pancakes sponsored by Church of the Oaks, children and adults lined up around downtown Cotati and La Plaza Park, eager to see everything from fire trucks, to children’s singing groups, to Boy Scouts and baseball teams parading down the street.
Excited looking parents, with camera phones and video cameras stood poised and ready to capture their children in a parade made just for them.
“I’m just excited to see my daughter in the parade!” said Lara O’Brien from Petaluma, whose 8-year-old daughter was performing a montage of songs from The Sound of Music with the Music to My Ears group.
“My wife and twins will be rolling down the street with the Cal Skate group,” said Darush Ranjbar, who was eagerly waiting with his 4-year-old son. “We come every year.”
Aside from this year’s new theme, the parade, started as usual with fire trucks from the Rancho Adobe Fire District, and included everything from 4H groups, to Boy Scouts dressed in space ships, to the 9U Cal Ripken baseball team, dressed in uniform to celebrate their recent state championship win.
Many dignitaries were also in attendance, including Senator Bill Dodd, Congressman Mike Thompson and Miss Sonoma County Kristina Schmuhl and Miss Sonoma County’s Outstanding Teen, Emily Wong. Individual families and children, some dressed in multi-cultural garb, also participated in the parade, prompting Allred to announce over the microphone, “Isn’t it great that there’s a parade you can be in?”
Jarett Skeffington from Cotati who was a first time attendee of the parade and festival appreciated the kid-centric nature of the event. “Lots of parades are mainly adults,” said Skeffington. “But this one is all focused on the kids – it’s fun seeing the kids in the parade.” His 2-year-old daughter Ava however remarked that she “liked petting the kitties [at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter booth] the best!”
After the parade the fun continued in La Plaza park, which was overflowing with booths, games, jump houses and craft stations. A variety of food and beverage vendors kept visitors from getting hungry, and chocolate milk donated by Clover, and ice cream donated by Strauss Family Creamery kept everyone cool on the hot day. Several groups held bake sales, raffles and other fundraisers, including Tech High Baseball and Cal Ripken Baseball. The Cotati police department was on hand with police dog Remo, which the public was encouraged to pet and get acquainted with.
“This is a great opportunity to get people to meet the dog,” said Officer Brian Deaton with the Cotati Police Department. “There is a stigma that police dogs aren’t sociable but lots of them are. That’s what I like about this event. The community often sees me drive around town with Remo but don’t really get to meet him.”
Vice Mayor of Cotati Mark Landman introduced the festival portion of the day for this landmark anniversary, declaring that “some of you parents out there – you might have been some of the kids 25 years ago!” Senator Bill Dodd made an introduction as well, stating that “This is my first Cotati Kid’s Day – and it won’t be my last. Cotati does this better than anyone else.”
DJ Fiz-Nik Rick Minervini acted as master of ceremonies during the rest of the festival, keeping young and old alike engaged and entertained. The first event was the Diaper Derby, or the “original Cotati Crawl.” About eight babies lined up to race crawl to a finish line a few feet away. Hudson Sloat, dressed in a blue onesie with bib, scooted to the finish line first, winning a bag of diapers and a “I survived the original Cotati crawl” T-shirt.
“We thought we’d better enter him in the race because he’s pretty fast!” said Hudson’s mother Emily Sloat after the race.