Out of the shadows of the massive bank building where heirloom seeds are now sold, the showpieces and supporters of Petaluma's agricultural heritage made their way through downtown Saturday to mark the city's annual Butter & Egg Days parade and festival.
There were tractors and pickups interspersed among dancers, dairy operators and hometown athletes. Youth scouts, military veterans, community floats and beauty queens brought up the rear.
"All kinds of entries today as we celebrate legends of Petaluma past and present," announcer Jeff Mayne of the Petaluma Downtown Association, the event sponsor, said at the start of the procession, which kicked off around noon.
The homage to local farming, now in its 32nd year, began earlier in the day with a cow-pie-tossing contest and a costume event for toddlers dressed as chicks. The festivities are set to continue today when collectors descend on downtown for the Spring Antique Faire, with more than 180 dealers.
"It's just an amazing weekend for Petaluma," said Councilman Mike Harris, who took second place behind fellow Councilman Chris Albertson in one of the manure-tossing divisions. The irony of the activity for a politician was not lost on him.
"I can only imagine the headlines," Harris said, laughing. "Only in Petaluma."
About 30,000 people took in Saturday's spectacle, including food booths and drinking patios nestled into a four-block area.
Crowds were six to 10 rows deep along the parade route, with scores of children and old-timers holding down front-row seats. The route traced a horseshoe around downtown, heading up Fourth and Kentucky streets, rounding Washington Street and the former Sonoma County National Bank building before returning along Petaluma Boulevard.
The shady steps of the Petaluma Museum were a choice viewing spot for some parade veterans.
"I just love to come out and see everyone," said Evelyn Pedroni, who donned her 1950s-era Petaluma sweatshirt for the occasion. Her husband's family owned Pedroni's Delicatessen, the former culinary landmark on Western Avenue.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, Petaluma police said they rolled out extra safety measures Saturday, without detailing what those were.
"We did do some things in light of what happened in Boston that we wouldn't usually do," Lt. Tim Lyons said. By evening, police had reported no suspicious activity in the event area or arrests.
With about 150 entries, the parade is thought to be the largest of its kind from San Francisco to Oregon. Marching bands,
seven of them from local schools, were a hit with many along the route.
"It brings a good beat," said Ahnna Randolph, 10, who was visiting with family and friends from Cloverdale.
Petalumans said the festival was an important springtime rite.
"I loved the parade growing up, so I figured let the kids enjoy it as well," said Sara Grant, 31, who took in the day with her boyfriend, Robert, and his three children, ages
19 months to 7 years.
Another parade veteran, former Petaluma Councilwoman Lynn Woolsey, who recently retired after
20 years in Congress, gladly gave up her 30-year role in the parade for a sideline seat in the shade Saturday.
She had only one tip for her successor, Rep. Jared Huffman, after he rode by Saturday. Get a hat, Woolsey said.
"He has a lot of these parades ahead of him and he's got to protect his skin," she said.