Sebastopol’s Apple Blossom Festival a reliable show of west county’s ‘eclectic nature’

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Liza Brickey has attended the annual Apple Blossom Festival in Sebastopol for 30 years. Rain or shine, Brickey turns out on Main Street for the spirited event and, even after all these years, she still gets excited seeing students perform in the parade in local marching bands and at watching her community come together to celebrate springtime.

“It brings a sense of stability every year knowing this festival will happen,” Brickey said.

The 73rd annual Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival kicked off Saturday morning with a parade that drew hundreds of west county denizens and visitors from across the North Bay. This year’s theme was “It Takes a Village to Blossom,” and Mia DelPrete, Sebastopol’s citizen of the year, served as grand marshal.

Spectators clad in jean shorts, flowy shirts and sandals embraced the warm, sunny day and cheered as the parade rolled by, a slice of life symbolizing the counterculture city of 8,000 residents.

A group of pirate impersonators walking Dachsunds drew squeals of joy and loud claps.

Students wearing black leather jackets and long, plaid dresses danced to the soundtrack of the movie “Grease.”

This festival is Sebastopol at its finest, said Pat O’Connor, a resident of three years.

“People are so nice here and I have lived in the city (San Francisco) before but here people say hello and hold doors for you and really mean it when they ask how you are doing,” said O’Connor, who was at the parade with her granddaughter.

“This festival is also so intergenerational,” she said.

Children were at the forefront of the festival, with representation from seven different school marching bands, a ballet academy, dance schools and Scouts.

David Hidalgo beamed as his son marched with the Willowside Middle School band for the second year in a row.

“This is a great opportunity to get kids outside in their community so they can see how a town functions together,” Hidalgo said.

Some of the loudest cheers were for the Llamas of the Wine Country — a troupe of the Andean pack animals covered in colorful paper flowers and adorned in lanyards of bright pink, blue and green yarn.

Will Morris has not missed the Apple Blossom Festival since the mid-1980s. He has lived in Bodega Bay since 2002 but every year he said he drives to Sebastopol to celebrate the city with his friends.

“The west county is the best and has so much life and connections happening all the time,” Morris said, smiling widely as he waved to students in a marching band. “This event highlights the passion of west county and I have always been drawn to its eclectic nature.”

The festival continues Sunday at Ives Park and the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children younger than 11.

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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