One such block party on Moonlight Way in northeast Santa Rosa began Friday afternoon with a small parade of vintage cars, go-karts, tractors and golf carts, all decked out in home-made, red-white-and-blue decorations.
The party, in its seventh year, attracted more than 160 people. They included residents of the small suburban street but also family, friends, and friends of friends. Part of the lure is a huge barbecue and potluck after the parade, as well as games like sack races and water balloon fights.
Among the numerous parade participants were a trumpet-playing father and son who kicked off the festivities with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner and a 15-year-old boy scout who marched with a flag at the front of the parade. The Grand Marshal rotates each year from one neighbor to another, based on who has been living in the neighborhood the longest. Spectators waved little flags and cheered from their front lawns as the entourage passed by.
"Happy Fourth," they called out to each other.
"Are you part of the parade?" someone called out to a pair of women walking a dog with an American flag handkerchief tied round his neck.
"We are now!" they responded.
In Healdsburg, the holiday event was the third held by the Healdsburg Rotary Club Sunrise and the first time it took place in the plaza.
A rapt crowd surrounded a water feature set up on Plaza Street for the popular Duck Dash. Rotary members sent a group of numbered plastic ducks down the chute before the onlookers.
"Whoa, look, they're caught in a whirlpool here…the drama!" said Lisa Phipps, a fifth grade teacher at Fitch Mountain Elementary School, as the ducks meandered down the water chute.
Organizers said the Duck Dash competition was one of the club's main fundraisers, and they estimated this year that at $5 each the tickets could bring in between $15-16,000 that will be distributed to local programs benefiting children.
Nearby, Healdsburg Police Lt. Matt Jenkins let children climb into a patrol car and play with the lights and a speed scanner gun.
"I let them climb into the back seat — hopefully for the first and last time," Jenkins said.
Andre Chiang, 12, walked up to Jenkins and gave him a high five.
Chiang attends an international school in Hong Kong and was visiting the area with his family.
"This is a fabulous combination of local and people who come from out of town, we like the mix," said Jeff Harding, a Rotarian and Superintendent of the Healdsburg Unified School District. Wearing a duck baseball cap, Harding helped emcee the Duck Dash.
As for the costumes, the Healdsburg council members reached a unanimous vote and selected about five children who most fit their criteria: "cute, cute, cute, cute and creative," according to Chambers. They were honored with gift certificates and applause at the plaza band shell where the Russian River Ramblers played to the crowd.
Among them, Connor Delaney, 7, and his sister Carolina, 4, of Windsor were selected for their period dress: The nation's first president George Washington and Betsy Ross, who is credited with making the first U.S. flag.
In a white wig and 18th century-style clothes, Connor Delaney said he chose to be Washington, "because I like the Revolutionary War and all the famous heroes."