Monte Rio celebrates Independence Day weekend

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In the shade of a big canopy tent on Saturday, Jynx Lopez, an organizer of Monte Rio's Independence Day celebration, pondered over how many years the event had been held.

"Hey, Jim," she shouted, "How long have the Big Rocky Games been going on?"

"A hundred years, 90?" Jim answered.

Volunteers were dressing picnic tables in red and white tablecloths, weighting them with rocks against a stiff breeze.

Soon, a passel of kids gathered around the tables, surrounded by a crowd of their camera-toting elders, waiting for an ice cream eating contest. It was the mid-afternoon height of a carefree beach party that drew several hundred visitors.

They waited. Eagerly. An amplified voice said: "Apparently, we're waiting for the ice cream. It's on its way." Everyone displayed good-natured patience, even the kids.

Beyond the tent, people lined the river's edge, drinking beer and eating tacos, cheese nachos, pizza and hot dogs. In the green, shallow river, people on flotation devices twirled aimlessly in a slow current.

In the background, the amplified voice sounded again: "Give me an I... give me a C... give me an E..."

In a low-slung beach chair, Ken Rice said he has been coming to the event since he was 6 years old. He lives in Lincoln nowadays, but his family comes to the Monte Rio celebration every year.

"It's never modern. It's always old. I like it because there's not a whole lot of change," he said.

A cheer rose in the background. The ice cream arrived in the care of some cheerful people, one holding what may well have been a cocktail in a mug.

Soon, young people were displaying horrible table manners in front of their cheering parents. Korben Kellogg, 5, took first place in his age group.

"It's really chocolate," he said of his favorite flavor — after soldiering gamely, with a broad grin, at top speed through a cup of vanilla ice cream.

"For a Fourth of July weekend, you can't beat this place," said his father, Korry Kellogg, of Windsor.

Overhead, the sky was the color of blue sidewalk chalk and shoals of clouds moved through it. Towering redwoods swept along the bend of the river on its opposite bank.

Again came the amplified voice: "No hands, no spoons, no help."

Samantha Porter described the day's routine, which she was about halfway through. 1: Arrive. 2: Plant chairs by water. 3: Eat barbecue. 4: Return to chairs. 5: Wait for nighttime flotilla of floats.

"We've been coming here for 40 years," said Porter, of Santa Rosa.

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