Santa Rosa is furiously preparing to host two major downtown events Saturday — the annual Rose Parade and the Amgen Tour of California bike race — an unprecedented mashup of a nationally televised sporting showcase with a cherished community celebration.
Though rain threatens to tamp turnout and slicken the circuitous course, the tightly choreographed day promises to be one of the largest and most logistically complex events in Sonoma County history.
“Rain or shine, these are both huge events, and to have them together on a single day is epic,” said Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development and marketing coordinator and co-chair of the race’s local organizing committee.
As many as 20,000 people are expected to attend.
Thousands will descend on downtown to watch the noon-time 122nd annual Rose Parade, which salutes the city’s Luther Burbank horticultural heritage. Others will arrive earlier and stay later to enjoy a daylong bike-centric Lifestyle Festival that celebrates food, music and healthy living as part of race-day festivities. Still others will head to one of the west county climbs to see the peloton of riders pumping hard on the incline.
Wherever they are, all eyes will be on the 290 or so men and women zooming by in a rainbow blur on their expensive, high-tech racing bikes.
“It’s truly a traveling circus,” de la Rosa said.
Santa Rosa and Sonoma County leaders have worked for months behind the scenes coordinating the largest and most prestigious men’s U.S. bike race, which returns to the county after a two-year hiatus. This year, the women’s Tour of California is also racing here.
Race organizers, police and other emergency workers, as well as city road crews and volunteers, will have their hands full pulling off the events. Hundreds of street barriers, detour signs and portable toilets were moved into position by city crews and volunteers Thursday. Street closures downtown along the course were expected to begin Friday and expand through the day.
Initially, parade organizers worried about staging both events downtown on the same day. But those concerns faded as the groups were able to share some expenses and divide responsibilities. The two events have significant crossover appeal and were expected to play off and strengthen one another, with the influx of cycling fans boosting parade attendance, and parade watchers and participants expected to remain downtown to watch the men’s finish, de La Rosa said.
If the timing works as planned, the Rose Parade will fill a window of time between the women’s race expected 12:10 p.m. finish, and the men’s ending around 3:45 p.m. It’s a slightly shorter parade this year, running from Sonoma Avenue and E Street north to westbound Fourth Street and ending at B Street.
Even so, timing will be tight. The parade is expected to start just five minutes after the women’s race finishes.
Rain could complicate efforts to coordinate the two events.
The U.S. Weather Service predicted showers would begin tonight and last through Saturday, with a chance of a thunderstorm.
Event in a Box
Before the races kick off Saturday morning, teams of advance people began trickling into town to set up the massive infrastructure needed to televise the races on NBC Sports and stream them live to the world on the web.