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Santa Rosa’s Rose Parade celebrates service, unity in fires’ wake

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Luther Burbank Rose Parade winners

Antique or classic auto; Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Band, elementary school: Rincon Valley Royals

Band, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Band, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Band, out of county high school: Compton High School

Band, non-school: The Remedies, presented by Sutter Health

Color guard, adult: Santa Rosa Police Department

Costume group, adult: Dan Gighaus Elvis impersonator

Costume group, youth: Franklin Park Co-Op Preschool

Cultural dance: Cesar Chavez Ballet Folklorico

Cultural, other display: Sons of Italy

Costume heritage: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetary

Drill team, elementary: Strawberry School

Drill team, high school: Montgomery High School

Drum major, elementary: Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School

Drum major, middle school: Rincon Valley Charter

Drum major, high school: Elsie Allen High School

Flag team, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary

Flag team, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Flag team, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Float, commercial: Friedman's Home Improvement

Float, nonprofit: Sonoma County Fair

Mace drum major, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Military or veterans group: Marine Corps League Det. 686

Mounted authentic novelty: The Mask of Zorro

Mounted group: Rancho La Potranca/Ignacio Manzo

Pooper scooper: The Mask of Zorro

Novelty group, commercial: Santa Rosa Gymnastics Center

Novelty group, nonprofit: Sonoma County Library

Unit ID, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary

Unit ID, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Unit ID, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Special Awards

Henry Trione Award: Best Overall Equestrian Entry: The Mask of Zorro

Best Tribute to Luther Burbank: Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Best Use of Color: Cesar Chavez Language Academy & Ballet Folklorico

Best Use of Roses: LandPaths

Best Use of Theme: Friedman's Home Improvement

Thomas P Keegan Award: Best Entry Using Local History: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery

Sweepstakes Award, Best Unit in the Parade: Sonoma County Fair

John Bugbee Memorial Perpetual Trophy, best county high school entry: Rancho Cotate High School

When a technical glitch left 18 young folkórico dancers without their music seconds into their number for the Luther Burbank Rose Parade on Saturday, it was the surrounding crowd that provided the rhythm they needed to continue, clapping in unison as the girls swirled and swayed in their brightly colored skirts, hair ribbons and traditional Mexican peasant tops.

As the dancers — students from Cesar Chavez Language Academy — learned Saturday, Santa Rosa’s namesake parade unifies participants and spectators, with families, neighbors and school friends drawn together to cheer each other on during a rite that marks the slide into summer.

In the wake of last fall’s fires, many participants Saturday said that sense of unity is more pronounced than ever, and more necessary.

“People really came out,” said Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder, who drove one of his department’s patrol cars in the procession. “It’s part of being part of the community. The fire is the background to it. It’s amazing, the resilience of it.”

Now 124 years old, the parade this year took its theme from the shared ordeal of last October, when a series of massive wildfires that destroyed whole neighborhoods and claimed two dozen lives, shaking Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to its core. The challenging aftermath has revealing a strength that emerges when people join hands, paradegoers and organizers said Saturday.

“Together We Rose” was the event’s title, and organizers wanted especially to recognize first responders and other community stalwarts who stepped up during the crisis, said event coordinator Judy Groverman Walker.

One of the heroes of that time, Sheriff Rob Giordano, served as grand marshal, traveling the parade route aboard his department’s trailered patrol boat. Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Essick, one of three candidates seeking to succeed Giordano, was with him for the procession.

Waving and calling out to people stationed throughout the downtown area, Giordano made a special point of connecting with children, calling out, “High five in the air” time and again as he reached out his hands to little ones on the sidewalk.

Four-year-old Rocco Martino, sporting firefighter duds and a plastic fire chief’s helmet, was among the recipients of Giordano’s attention and was at a loss for words afterward.

His mother, Megan Tantarelli, said she and her family wouldn’t be anywhere else on parade day.

“I love it,” said another spectator, Kristi Myers, 38, who grew up attending the parade and now comes with her two young children, in support of community. “It’s a nice message, too, this year.”

In addition to law enforcement, firefighters, National Guard soldiers and search and rescue personnel, all of whom played prominent roles in the fires, there were plenty of standard attractions to fill in the two-hour parade. Dozens of marching bands, drum lines, cheer clubs and other school groups participated.

There were also elected leaders, veterans’ groups and Scouts.

Mexican rodeo horses kicked up their shodden heels to the delight of children and adults, while drivers in glossy muscle cars revved their engines.

Miss Sonoma County, seated atop a convertible in a floral dress and sparkling crown, was followed by a tough-looking lady roller derby skater.

Behind them came supporters of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery dressed in turn-of-the-century garb and carrying old-time political placards, including one suffragette whose sign read, “Vote For Women.”

Luther Burbank Rose Parade winners

Antique or classic auto; Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Band, elementary school: Rincon Valley Royals

Band, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Band, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Band, out of county high school: Compton High School

Band, non-school: The Remedies, presented by Sutter Health

Color guard, adult: Santa Rosa Police Department

Costume group, adult: Dan Gighaus Elvis impersonator

Costume group, youth: Franklin Park Co-Op Preschool

Cultural dance: Cesar Chavez Ballet Folklorico

Cultural, other display: Sons of Italy

Costume heritage: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetary

Drill team, elementary: Strawberry School

Drill team, high school: Montgomery High School

Drum major, elementary: Santa Rosa Accelerated Charter School

Drum major, middle school: Rincon Valley Charter

Drum major, high school: Elsie Allen High School

Flag team, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary

Flag team, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Flag team, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Float, commercial: Friedman's Home Improvement

Float, nonprofit: Sonoma County Fair

Mace drum major, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Military or veterans group: Marine Corps League Det. 686

Mounted authentic novelty: The Mask of Zorro

Mounted group: Rancho La Potranca/Ignacio Manzo

Pooper scooper: The Mask of Zorro

Novelty group, commercial: Santa Rosa Gymnastics Center

Novelty group, nonprofit: Sonoma County Library

Unit ID, elementary: Hidden Valley Elementary

Unit ID, middle school: Hillcrest Middle School

Unit ID, high school: Rancho Cotate High School

Special Awards

Henry Trione Award: Best Overall Equestrian Entry: The Mask of Zorro

Best Tribute to Luther Burbank: Luther Burbank Home & Gardens

Best Use of Color: Cesar Chavez Language Academy & Ballet Folklorico

Best Use of Roses: LandPaths

Best Use of Theme: Friedman's Home Improvement

Thomas P Keegan Award: Best Entry Using Local History: Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery

Sweepstakes Award, Best Unit in the Parade: Sonoma County Fair

John Bugbee Memorial Perpetual Trophy, best county high school entry: Rancho Cotate High School

But reflections on the community’s recent trial by disaster resurfaced again and again.

About a dozen people from the First Congregational United Church of Christ carried burned branches from the home of one of their member families.

They were followed by a float depicting bright roses and nature’s rebirth at the edges of a dark, charred landscape, with the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” playing in the background.

A collection of students and parents from Anova, a school for children with autism and other learning differences, rode golf carts in the parade, with a large banner that said simply, “Still Standing.” Their school was destroyed by flames last fall.

Vanessa Smith, whose 8-year-old Cub Scout, Trevor, and his 11-year-old brother, Tristan, a Boy Scout, marched in the parade, said it’s important to “respect our community and show support.”

“This is something we do every year,” she said. “It’s a family tradition. It’s a family thing.”

Diana and Tim Calhoun, attending with their three children, ages 10, 8 and 10 months old, said they had lived in the area since 2004 but somehow had never seen the parade.

“It wonderful,” Tim Calhoun said. “Generally, I just like everyone being here together. But there’s a nice flavor of eclectic culture here, so to speak, and obviously the backdrop of the fires really brings together the community.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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