The 41st annual Penngrove Parade Sunday, July 2, started on the mark at 11 a.m., and proved that it still has what it takes to earn the title “Biggest Little Parade in Northern California.”
By 10:30 a.m., parking spaces were hard to find and families had claimed their spots with lawn chairs and beach bags in tow. Students from Penngrove Elementary School were showing their entrepreneurial side by pulling a cart of ice-cold bottled water for $1 a bottle - a great move because main street was warming up.
Waiting for the parade to begin was Nicole Leonhardt, keeping an eye on her daughter Brooklynn, 4, and her two nieces Ava Panizzara, 3 and Aria Panizzara, 5. All three girls were dressed in patriotic American flag-themed outfits, and it turns out that this parade has become a tradition for the Leonhardts ever since Brooklynn was born.
“I’d never been to this parade before,” Nicole Leonhardt clarified, “but after Brooklynn was born I wanted to bring her out and see the town. It’s a really nice tradition for us now - I look forward to it every year.”
As a longtime resident, Ms. Leonhardts face lit up when asked if she enjoys living there, “Oh yes! We love Penngrove...it’s such a great community, and it’s so well situated. It’s a little town, close to everything, but it’s still rural enough that you feel like you’re away from the hustle and bustle.”
The parade started off with the announcer asking for all veterans of war -WWII, the Korean Way, the Vietnam War - to stand up and be recognized for their service to the country. This elicited a rousing round of applause and cheers from everyone present. This was followed by a lovely rendition of the national anthem, sung by Julia Gibbs, 14, who’s had recent singing roles at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theatre and sounded like a professional with every note.
Since the parade is hosted by the Penngrove Social Firemen - a group of volunteers that was started over 50 years ago - it made sense that things really started rolling with the sound of sirens and a show of fire trucks; both vintage and new. These trucks were honoring the last five active Penngrove Fire Chiefs dating back to 1928: Harold Sinclair, Walt Goldbeck, Skip Grube, Frank Treanor and Leonard Thompson.
After this, things got fun with the Sonoma-Marin Swiss Club riding on the back of a tractor...and judiciously soaking the cheering onlookers with water-filled squirt guns.
There were floats representing local businesses, such as Tamagno Green Products and the Goah Way Ranch ‘Swarm Catcher’ in a 54 Chevy Pickup. In fact, besides being a celebration of all things patriotic, the Penngrove Parade is a celebration of all things automobile. There was the 1929 Model A being driven by the Cotati
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Museum and Historic Society, a 1966 Chevy Bel Air, a 1966 Shelby Cobra, and a newer Corvette being used to chaperone Capt. Robert Safreno (Ret.), who was named Veteran of the Year by the Sonoma County Vets Council.
Things began to wind down with a show of the more rural side of Penngrove; more tractors and displays of horsemanship and, of course, more squirt guns being used to keep the decidedly warmed up crowd cool.
As the parade came to a close, many of the families grabbed their chairs and headed to nearby Penngrove Park where an enormous slide, twirl ride, and carnival games were available for the children, and a barbecue and beer tent were available for the adults.
As always, all proceeds from this event are used to support maintenance and improvements to Penngrove Park, the Clubhouse and the Penngrove 4-H for the continued benefit of the community.