Celebrating Bodega Bay’s heritage

The 42nd annual Fisherman’s Festival wrapped up Sunday in Bodega Bay with local clergy blessing a fleet of about 30 boats and the tossing of a flower wreath into the water in remembrance of those lost at sea.

The festival celebrates a way of life of past years when the fishing industry was the economic lifeblood of the community. It attracted an estimated 6,500 people over the weekend, said Brooks Rooney, chairwoman of the event, which was expected to raise about $75,000 for local fire departments, schools and other organizations.

Today, tourism drives the local economy, with visitors stopping to get a photo outside the Potter Schoolhouse featured in the “The Birds” or savoring a taste of the clam chowder down at Spud Point Crab Co., and likely just as interested in the wine.

The dichotomy was on display Sunday under sunny skies as children and parents waved to those on the vessels during the Boat Parade and then went back to shopping, eating and browsing at the various educational displays as a group played a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover. A mock water rescue by the crew of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Henry 1 helicopter was the big draw in the afternoon.

The festival endures even as it gets tougher for local fishermen, who had to contend with outsiders from San Francisco and Half Moon Bay at the start of crab season last December, to an aging local demographic where Rooney noted that approximately 80 percent of the volunteers were 60 years and older.

Organizers said the educational aspect of the festival of reminding people of the area’s fishing history was just as important as the funds that the event raises, especially as fewer local young people go into the industry. “It’s the same with farming. Kids don’t see cows and they don’t see tractors. It’s the same with the fishermen,” Rooney said.

“It doesn’t have the fishing atmosphere like it used to have,” said Aldo Cima, 90, who built his home near the bay almost ?40 years and has been coming to the festival almost as long. He recalls when the festival started, it was a simple blessing and “a few hot dogs and such” in the parking lot by the docks.

“Now it’s just for tourists,” he said. “It’s different.”

Cima said he remembers the days when fishermen would dock near where the Tides Wharf restaurant now stands, and female workers would clean and fillet the fish for sale.

“It was just like an old fishing village,” Cima said as he helped man the wine tent. “It was just a little place then.”

You can reach Staff Writer ?Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or On Twitter @BillSwindell.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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