More than 30,000 people poured into Petaluma's downtown from around the community and far beyond on Saturday to watch the city's biggest annual celebration of its agricultural heritage, the Butter & Egg Days Parade.
The parade itself, one of the largest in the region, went off with nary a hitch as an impressive 148 floats made their way downtown through a thick, cheering crowd.
The parade this year celebrated Petaluma's legends, past and present, so floats featured, among other things, tributes to the famous wrist wrestling competitions of the past, original members of the legendary Leghorns football team, former mayor Helen Putnam, movies filmed in town, cows, chickens and more. Newer legends included Petaluma Batman, riding in a custom-made Bat-Mobile, and the Petaluma National Little League champs.
Some of Petaluma's oldest businesses, such as Lace House Linen and Clover Stornetta, celebrated their long histories in town as well.
"I think the theme was really well celebrated," said Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association, which organizes the event with the help of a massive crew of volunteers — about 240 of them. "It allowed participants to really celebrate themselves or someone who is legendary in Petaluma," she said, adding, "That's the whole objective. It's a historical parade, a story about Petaluma."
A float by local artist Henry Washer took the top Sweepstakes honor for its creative depiction of legendary themes, including wrist wrestling and the dairy industry. He hand-crafted, from dock foam and paper mache, a nearly life-size, mobile sculpture of a man and a steer locked in a wrestling match.
He said he was inspired, among other things, by tales he heard growing up of young men drinking and going into fields to wrestle cattle.
All told, the movable sculpture took him about a month of full-time work to create.
The Petaluma Argus-Courier's float, carrying four members of the original Leghorns semi-professional football team, was another top honoree, receiving the Helen Putnam award for best use of historical theme.
North Bridge Orthodontics received the Judge's Special award for its float, "Peggy Sue Got Braces," a tribute to one of many movies filmed in Petaluma. The Petaluma High School Vocational Ed class received the Golden Hammer award for the impressive level of construction that went into the float.
Another highlight was the Buffalo Billiards float, on which City Councilmember Gabe Kearney officiated a wedding ceremony as the parade's Good Eggs, John and Joetta Furrer, renewed their wedding vows.
"This community is remarkable in the way it steps up," McCusker added of the participants' creativity and the enormous volunteer effort. The event drew big crowds from out of town, she said, with people coming from as far as Idaho, Michigan and New York to spend the weekend in Petaluma.
In addition to the parade, the day featured the popular cowchip throwing contest. Councilmember Chris Albertson took top honors in the VIP division, with Councilmember Mike Harris coming in second. New Police Chief Pat Williams beat out Fire Chief Larry Anderson in the chief's division.
Not to be outdone, a kids contest hosted by Petaluma Egg Farms drew 70 befeathered contestants from the infant and toddler set, all vying for the honors of Cutest Little Chick in Town. First place in that contest went to young siblings Declan and Daphne Widge.