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Healdsburg Water Carnival 2013: Another year of old-fashioned fun

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by

A Pacific Island-inspired float the the 2012 Healdsburg Water Carnival. Behind the floating hut is the miniature Titanic replica created by Shaun McCaffery. (Photo: Ann Carranza)

Sandy, an 8-foot white swan sporting an inimitable outfit, will float down the Russian River at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 27.  No, it isn’t a delusion caused by imbibing too much of wine country’s favorite beverage, it’s the annual parade of whimsical, funny and downright creative water vehicles, as Healdsburg celebrates is old-time roots with fun in the sun on the river.

From the colorful procession to revelers mounted on wine-barrel steeds, from dashing rubber ducklings to food sizzling in food trucks, the day offers activities for the whole family. The event kicks off with the river parade at 11 a.m. The Healdsburg Sunrise Rotary is the main sponsor of the family event.

Participants will converge on the river early, says event director Liz Keeley, though some conveyance-creators may work on their boats on Friday evening. River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe donates staff hours, as well as their beach for overnight security.

“Lollie is very generous,” says Liz Keeley. “She loans us canoes, staff and even the beach. Plus she includes life vests and paddles.”

The Healdsburg Water Carnival is 4th District Supervisor Mike McGuire’s brainchild, according to Keeley, and Sandy the Swan was re-created from photos taken in the early years of last century. The event is a Sonoma County Regional Parks and Healdsburg Sunrise Rotary Club presentation.

Keeley, 55, has been the director since the event’s inception in 2011. She has organized the Steelhead Festival for a number of years and the Sonoma County Regional Parks’ officials approached her to run the carnival. It is just one of the events of the month-long Russian River Festival with free activities happening in a number of local parks.

Ron Keeley, Liz’s husband and sidekick in action, is essential to the event. He was one of the original creators of Sandy the Swan, along with Healdsburg City Councilman Shaun McCaffery, and they offered their expertise in building the platforms for the floats. They’ve produced 15 platforms and may build more.

“These are stable floats,” Ron Keeley says. “They are wide and can hold more than 800 pounds. We strap two canoes underneath the wooden platforms with webbed straps.” He’ll also be in charge of organizing the boats for the parade.

All floats have to be water ready by 9 a.m. to be staged before the parade. They begin the parade near Brandt’s Beach.

Seventeen floats and additional watercraft will participate in the parade. Those attending will recognize Sandy the Swan, whose guests of honor will not include Mr. Healdsburg this year, but members of the American Legion Sotoyome Post 111. Attendees will be treated to a “return of the Titanic,” as well as the Parasol float. Other entries include Russian Riverkeeper, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the City of Healdsburg, SOAR Inflatables, Hotel Healdsburg, the 20-30 Club and more.

Prizes include: first place, $1000; second place, 2 round-trip tickets from the Sonoma County Airport to San Diego; and third place $250.

Family fun doesn’t stop with the parade. There is a full slate of vendors and activities planned for the day. The kids’ area will include the organization “I Make Pots,” with well-known potter Nancy Morgan, says Keeley. In addition, the City of Healdsburg’s Park and Rec Department will be on hand with their “Fun Mobile,” as well as the Sonoma County Free Bookmobile.

Live music will be provided by “Big G and Friends” who play soul, funk and reggae.

The Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society will staff a booth and bring their diorama. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will have nautical activities, the Hand Fan Museum, another of Keeley’s projects, will sell fans, Russian Riverkeeper will have information on their mission, as well as the river, and the Healdsburg Center for the Arts will show its creativity. More booths are planned.

The community has rallied around the event and is providing prizes for the wine-barrel races, including tickets to the Sonoma County Fair, concert tickets and more.

Food trucks include Bun Slinger Korean, Chicago-Style hot dogs, Ultimate Souvlaki Greek food, Wurst, and the Bear Republic. In addition, Kettle Korn will be there, along with Hawaiian shaved ice and fruit pops.

In addition to all the carnival activities, Memorial Beach is a “summer swim zone” and will be open to swimmers and waders.

The Healdsburg Bridge over the Russian River is slated to be closed from 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Parking is $7, free with a Sonoma County Regional Parks pass, and will be available at the Memorial Beach parking lot 13839 Old Redwood Hwy., Syar, 13666 Old Redwood Hwy., and at Max Machinery, 33 Healdsburg Ave.

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Ann Carranza,
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