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We are a full week into summer and this is definitely a summer sort of column — no heavy lifting. But there is important information, historical and otherwise, that needs to be known.

So the topics today are varied, everything from visiting Russian presidents to big spenders from Sacramento to, heaven help us, a hard look at the matter of raccoons. (If you are one of the many who think raccoons are cute and harmless, stay with me to the end.)

RUSSIANS FIRST. Fort Ross is preparing for its bicentennial. (A bicentennial, as we all know, is the same as a centennial, only with twice as many legs.) And the Russian president is an important part of the plan.

The people who will stage a 12-month birthday party for the historic settlement on the Sonoma Coast are hoping that President Dmitry Medvedev, who paid a visit to San Francisco last week, knows that he's not the first Medvedev to drop in on Northern California.

If he is aware that there were two men named Medvedev at Fort Ross at the beginning, he might be eager to participate in their celebration.

That's what they are hoping.

None of us are getting any younger, right? But Fort Ross is the champ. This southernmost outpost of Czarist Russia will be 200 years old in 2012.

Now, if you've wandered around in the Roman forum or stood before the gates of Troy, 200 years may not sound like much. But for California, which isn't even a teenager in terms of written history, it's a big deal. For Sonoma County it's a very big deal. Because, in the progression of non-native settlements north of San Francisco Bay, the Russians came first.

It was March of 1812 when a peg-legged adventurer named Ivan Kuskov brought his schooner Chirikov to the Sonoma coast and, with his band of workers called promyshlenniki (contract workers), set about building a fort on a point of land about 15 miles north of the temporary village he and his explorers had established two years earlier on Bodega Bay.

There were Russians, Aleuts, Inuits, Yakuts, even Hawaiian men (known as Kanakas) — an amazingly diverse settlement.

The Fort Ross Interpretive Association (FRIA) is gearing up for a yearlong observance of Kuskov's mission and what came of it.

If you follow the news, you know that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement Tuesday with the Renova Group of Companies, a Russian corporation pledging funds to help the state parks maintain Fort Ross.

Renova's boss, oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, is a history buff who visited the fort Tuesday afternoon. It's likely that his company will be central in financing the bicentennial celebration.

The Fort Ross association is actively seeking support — corporate, charitable and individual, foreign and domestic, local and national. Chevron already has funded a film of the fort's history, and FRIA members are certain there are more U.S. corporations and citizens that will be involved, in the spirit of international cooperation.

The plan is to present an event every month of 2012 celebrating the diversity of the settlement. Presentations include the native Kashia Pomo, visiting Alaskans and Siberians, expanded Culture History Days, Russian art and conferences and symposiums on every scholarly approach to the settlement — and those are myriad. I think you get the picture.

At the top of the association's wish list is a meeting, a "handshake" they are calling it, between Presidents Obama and Medvedev.

If it turns out that either Efim Medvedev, a promyshlennik, or Ermil Medvedev, a carpenter, is the great-, great-, great-, great-grandfather of President Dmitry, the chances improve.

Now, if they can just find someone in the roster of Fort Ross inhabitants who has a slot in our president's diverse and interesting history, they've definitely got themselves an international event.

THE NEXT 200TH in the county will be the anniversary of the founding of the Sonoma Mission. That won't happen until 2023.

Sonoma historian Bob Parmelee has researched the 1923 centennial celebration of the Mission San Francisco Solano. His essay on the subject is not a tale of triumph.

The Sonoma Mission celebration tried too much, cost too much and accomplished too little.

The story Parmelee tells indicates that the Fort Ross folks are on the right track with their scholarly approach to the anniversary. In Sonoma, they opted for excess pageantry and expensive theatricals and were left more poor than proud.

Sonomans not only felt it was their civic responsibility to commemorate the mission founding, Parmelee writes, but they hoped that the event would bring tourist dollars to a town in economic "doldrums."

The decisions were made by the Sonoma Business Men's Association. Chairman Jesse Prestwood, the high school principal, contacted a Sacramento promoter who had planned the successful "Days of '49" celebration in the state capital.

"Sonomans," Parmelee writes, "did not comprehend that they did not have sufficient transportation services to get paying spectators to and from Sonoma" for the four-day festival the Sacramento promoter proposed.

"Nor did they realize that overnight accommodations in Sonoma were strictly limited. These facts made it unlikely that the spectacle ... could be a financial success; yet, locals saw no need for cost control."

They hired the director of the famous "Ramona pageant" in Hemet, who announced he would spare no expense on "one of the most stupendous productions ever staged in California."

He was right. He spared no expense.

The celebration began June 30 and continued through July 4. The pageant was supplemented by Spanish fandangos, "a girl review," folk dancing, street carnivals, political speeches, fireworks, sham Indian attacks, band concerts, patriotic tableaus, a re-enactment of the Bear Flag raising, the unveiling of a Goddess of Liberty, a rodeo and dedication of the Jack London library at Glen Ellen.

The grandstand across from the mission, built to accommodate 2,000, was full for just one of the five performances. When it was over, the committee reported that the "cost of the event ran far beyond the expectations of the promoters, while the receipts were not in proportion."

In late summer, merchants were still waiting to be paid for their supplies. And, the economy of Sonoma suffered to the point where the roar of the Roaring '20s was more like a sigh, or maybe a groan. Groan.

CERTAINLY ANOTHER MENTION of the ubiquitous raccoon will cause a groan. Still reports continue to pour in. Many responding to the May adventures of our dog Gus and his encounter with a raccoon tell us about raccoons they have known — and, yes, even loved.

But an e-mail from a veterinarian on the faculty at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine contains an urgent message for those who would give their backyard visitors pet names and offer them food.

The simple message is: Do Not!

Here's what Dr. Autumn Davidson has to say:

"I am concerned that the public may not be aware of a serious health hazard resulting from contact with raccoon's feces (commonly deposited in so-called raccoon latrines near where they live) called Baylisascaris.

"This parasite can cause fatal and untreatable disease in the central nervous system of humans and dogs if acquired.

"Although it is not a common disease, it is a very serious one. We have had two confirmed cases in dogs in the past couple of years diagnosed at the Animal Care Center in Rohnert Park. Please consider updating your readers about this concern."

If you want more information, this parasite is described accurately on Wikipedia and on the CDC website, Davidson said.

The bottom line: Cute as they are with their tiny hands and funny masks, raccoons are not our friends.

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