Thousands turn out amid storm for Rose Parade in Santa Rosa
Young children layered in colorful rain slickers splashed in puddles and caught candy tossed from rose-festooned cars Saturday in the rainy 125th edition of Luther Burbank Rose Parade and Festival.
Santa Rosa’s beloved springtime rite, caught in the middle of a strong weekend storm, went forward as planned, drawing several thousand hearty spectators to downtown for performances by local school bands and dance groups and a rolling procession of civic and business groups.
The downpour was strong enough that even some dogs along the parade route wore rain slickers. Most onlookers found refuge under storefront awnings, umbrellas and tarps.
Santa Rosa resident Hema Gopal braved the cold rain and wind to cheer on her eldest son who has been part of the parade for eight years.
“He is in the drum line and absolutely loves being involved,” Gopal said. “These events bring the community together and it is always a point of pride to see your children participating.”
Parade participants were encouraged to adorn their cars and dress in ways that paid homage to the parade’s deep roots.
First-time attendee Yadira Rivas held her son’s hand as he bounced on his toes and squealed at every passing car. Rivas has lived in Santa Rosa her whole life but only decided to attend this year after her 5-year-old son, Izek, begged her to go.
She quickly realized she had been missing out.
“Honestly it is really fun being out here with our community,” Rivas said. “This is our home and it is important I show my son from a young age what is it like to live in such a good area because we love Santa Rosa.”
The parade has struggled to acquire funding in recent years and was saved this year by a $20,000 donation in April by James Ratto, founder of Santa ?Rosa-based Ratto Group of Companies.
That gift, along with other fundraising efforts, helped close the budget gap, said Judy Groverman Walker, manager of the parade.
The wet weather caused a few parade participants to drop out at the last minute, organizers said. Board President Peter Briceño said typically the parade has around 110 participating groups. This year featured about 70.
Briceño, a fourth-generation Santa Rosan, had an optimistic outlook and said the rain made it so those who attended were even more dedicated to the success of the parade.
“It was more quaint this year because the people who really wanted to be there were there,” he said. “I will say I was still shocked to see people putting out their chairs early this morning in the same spots along the route.”
Float entries, cheer teams and school clubs helped buoy the crowd’s energy.
Youth of varying ages from En Garde Fencing in Santa Rosa squared off in full garb, equipped with masks and foam foils to reenact a bout.
The Southwest Brigade marching band pounded on drums and clanged cymbals that could be heard above the rain and passing sirens. The group is composed of local alumni and current students from schools in southwest Santa Rosa, including Lawrence Cook Middle School and Elsie Allen High.
Julia Bobbitt cheered on the brigade at the parade’s end.
Still, few were dawdling as the normally two-hour-plus parade wrapped up Saturday in under 11/2 hours.
Bobbitt has been attending off and on since the 1970s. Even if it’s raining she turns out to support her town.
After the 2017 fires and recent floods, that community spirit is needed more than ever, she said.
“It’s nice to have all these people out here cheering for the city we love,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or email@example.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.