After a four-year hiatus, Day Under the Oaks is returning to the Santa Rosa Junior College campus May 5.
Canceled in 2009 amid fears of swine flu, the massive event first staged in 1978 as an open house and educational fair was suspended in each subsequent year as the college weathered deep budget cuts.
College President Frank Chong, starting his second year at the helm of the campus, vowed last spring to bring back the event.
"When I met my foundation board," Chong said, "they wanted to figure out how to support the college and I said, 'Why don't you support it by helping us bring back Day Under the Oaks?' "
The idea is to have the event become self-sufficient, Chong said. Until then, general fund support from the school is "going to be minimal."
The college tapped Toni Bodenhamer to coordinate the event and sell sponsorships. Bodenhamer is former executive director of the Luther Burbank Rose Parade and has coordinated the Butter and Egg Days Parade in Petaluma, the Harvest Fair and the Las Vegas Veterans Day Parade.
The SRJC event, held on the first Sunday in May, historically has featured Native American dancing and drumming, food booths, crafts and information on campus clubs and classes.
"I'm ecstatic," said Brenda Flyswithhawks, a professor of psychology at the college who has coordinated the Native American Spring Celebration which continued even after the cancellation of the Day Under the Oaks.
"It is a way for the community to come in and just have a wonderful day, I think, of experiencing what is happening at the college," she said.
The Day Under the Oaks began in 1978 as an open house and educational fair for members of the community to learn more about the school. Many of the clubs that staff booths use the event to raise money for activities throughout the year.
The event is also a way for the college to say thank you for community support, Flyswithhawks said.
"Those doors wouldn't be open if it wasn't for the community," she said.
"It's an outward sign of hope," Flyswithhawks said of the event's return. "It's hope for all of us that things are getting better."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.