There's high anxiety under the redwoods in Monte Rio as more than 2,000 wealthy men begin arriving today for their annual retreat — to be greeted by an unknown number of people protesting their presence along the tranquil Russian River.
But it's not the plutocrats and power brokers of the Bohemian Club who have Monte Rio residents and merchants on edge. It's the demonstrators, who haven't always been polite, or good for business.
"There have been some really nice people, and some jerks," said Suzi Schaffert, who has run the Rio Theater since 1993. "I don't know what we're in for this year."
Tia Resleure, an artist and dog dental hygienist who lives close by the Bohemian Grove gates, questioned the whole idea of protesting corporate power in an economically depressed village.
"It doesn't do any good for the community, and I don't think it does anything for their cause, either," said Resleure, who moved two years ago from San Francisco's North Beach to a modest house beneath towering redwoods.
Demonstrations belong in front of a major bank or the Bohemian Club in San Francisco "where you'll get more attention," she said.
Monte Rio, on a bend in the Russian River between Guerneville and the coast, has the fourth-lowest household median income in Sonoma County, at $41,094, compared with $59,326 in Santa Rosa and $85,208 in the rural enclave of Graton, according to the Census Bureau.
Entrance to the 2,700-acre grove is down a narrow road called Bohemian Avenue on the eastern edge of Monte Rio, where a work crew from the grove picked up tree branches Wednesday in preparation for today's start of the 18-day encampment.
Expensive cars were arriving Wednesday at the gate monitored by private security guards and a sheriff's deputy.
The Bohemians, a 2,400-member, all-male club, have been retreating to their wooded and intensely private grove since the 1870s.
And with new energy and direction from the Occupy movement, at least two Bohemian Grove protests are slated for the weekend.
Camp Meeker activist Mary Moore's Bohemian Grove Action Network is organizing a Creation of Care event with speakers and live music from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Monte Rio amphitheater.
Moore said the event, which is free, was intentionally scheduled on the same day the Bohemians open their gathering with the Cremation of Care, a ceremony conducted in front of a large owl statue.
The name of her event drops the "m" from cremation to spell creation. The "m," she said, stands for "murder and money."
Moore, who started organizing grove protests in 1980, said her major objection was the secrecy surrounding the Lakeside Talks delivered by government and corporate leaders.
Occupy groups from Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, San Francisco, Eureka and Portland have endorsed the event, creating qualms for some Monte Rio residents.
Activist Doug Millar is promoting protests from 11:11 a.m. to 6:33 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday near the grove gates.
Since Moore scaled back her involvement in 2001, Grove protests had tailed off.
Last year, the CHP moved about 20 protesters back from the gates and wound up trampling on vegetation next to the narrow road, Resleure said.
"The problem is that a lot of people who show up at the protests aren't that intelligent," she said.