It is time once again for the coolest event in Sebastopol, the 71st annual Blossom Festival and Parade. If my math is correct that takes the first one back to 1946 when apples were as abundant as canneries, apple processing plants and immigrant laborers. Much has changed during those seven decades. What was once The Barlow Apple Processing Plant is now The Barlow shopping center, apples have been replaced by grapes, but are still picked by immigrants, and what was once a small rural town has become a small artistic urban center. Through all these changes it remains, as Luther Burbank quotes, “God’s chosen spot on the earth for nature.”
I feel blessed to live in this beautiful town that I came upon over 40 years ago. The train that rolled through the middle of town and the Apple Blossom Parade were the two things that endeared me to Sebastopol, along with my wife Jan, who grew up on a chicken ranch in town. I love the stories she tells of Apple Blossom Festivals of the past in the late 50s and 60s. I am fascinated by the sepia pictures of those Apple Queens, and all the cool logos that adorned apple crates back in the day and now adorn The Barlow shopping center. I love everything about this weekend and all the people that help make it happen.
I have proudly participated many times in the parade, as Mr. Music singing with a bunch of kids from one of the schools, with my dear Love Choir several times and even once as the proud Citizen of the Year. There is no better feeling in the world than singing down the middle of Main Street waving to your friends and feeling the love that is generated by this popular event. The Love Choir actually won the grand prize float one year as we sang “All You Need is Love” and released doves at the judges’ stand. This year the Love Choir is back in the parade celebrating our 20th anniversary.
The Love Choir’s very first gig was Sunday morning at the festival in 1997. The stage was in the Little League baseball field, and a dozen friends came together with one rehearsal and did a gospel Sunday morning singalong. We had so much fun singing together that we began meeting every week, first in my studio and now at the community center. 20 years later we are now 80 members strong and we will be reprising that first gig at noon on Sunday. We invite you all to come and sing along to traditional gospel, country classics, rock, reggae and old hippie songs. Your spirits will be lifted.
This Apple Blossom Festival is also significant, because it will be the last ABF under Teresa Ramondo, the capable director of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce, who will be retiring in June after 23 years pulling the strings of this wonderful community event. She always seems to be on an even keel, despite the million details that have to be contended with during this week. It is hard to imagine that the festival can go on without Teresa and her hardworking husband, Darrel, who can be seen driving around the grounds in his golf cart, and doing everything Teresa needs done (Yes, dear!). Teresa plans to do the three Rs — Retire, Relax and Repurpose. Watching her grandson, Connor will be high on her list of duties. I think I speak for everyone in town when I say, “Thank you Teresa for a job well done for our town”.
But the ABF has always been a community effort and it will go on for many years with marching bands, little leaguers, tractors, politicians, horses, antique cars, fire trucks and wiener dogs all strutting down Main Street USA and waving to their friends. You too can be a part of this fun, just show up and wave. See you there.