Petaluma-nated: Local Highlights

10 Things you might not know about Butter & Egg Days


There’s no doubt that the entire Petaluma community rallies around the Butter & Egg Days Parade…and has for generations. For the 3,000 parade participants, it’s an opportunity to take a spin around the block like a celebrity, waving at the crowd as they march or ride in the parade.

For the 25,000 spectators, it’s a grand time cheering on friends, family and other community members as they pass by.

Even if you’ve grown up with the parade and seen the parade from both sides – as a star and a spectator – there may be some things you didn’t know about the parade. Knowing these can also make for a more fun and enjoyable parade day.


1. Pick up a Butter & Egg Days Argus Courier special section

The 40 page insert will be in Thursday’s Argus and also handed out along the parade route. It has everything you need to know about the parade including the schedule of events, parade line up, map, plus history and information about lots of upcoming events in Petaluma.


2. Fuel up for a day of fun

Before you stake out the perfect viewing spot, enjoy a delicious breakfast and support one of Petaluma’s most active service clubs. The Petaluma 7-11 Lions Club will be serving French toast, juice, sausage and eggs from 8-11am on parade date in the parking lot between Putman Plaza and Water Street. Tickets are $7.


3. Ride Petaluma Transit for free on Parade Day

Everyone dreads trying to find a parking place downtown. Skip the hassle and ride the bus for FREE!

  • Eastside Residents

Live near S McDowell Blvd, Ely Blvd S, Sonoma Mtn Pkwy, Maria Drive, or E. Madison? Take Route 33 to ETC (Safeway) & transfer to Route 11 to Copeland Transit Mall and walk to the parade.

Live near N. McDowell Blvd? Take Route 2 to ETC (Safeway) & stay on the bus, it will then go to Copeland Transit Mall (the bus becomes Route 11 once it departs ETC) and you can walk to the parade.

Live near Lakeville Hwy, Frates Road, S. McDowell Blvd, or Caulfield? Take Route 24 to Copeland Transit Mall and walk to the parade.

  • Westside Residents: Live near Petaluma? Blvd N. take Route 1 to Copeland Transit Mall and walk to the parade.


4. Step aboard a SMART Train

Been wondering what the inside of the SMART train looks like? Butter & Egg Days is your chance to get a sneak peek. Just take a short walk from downtown – it’s less than a half mile – to the Visitors Center on E. Washington Street and Lakeville. That’s where SMART will have a train available for touring from 10 am to 4 pm on parade day. Staff will be on hand to answer questions.


5. Plenty of places for a pit stop

An event that brings 25,000 people into downtown can be a challenging day for merchants if thousands of parade-goers constantly ask, “Can I use your bathroom?” Instead, we want to encourage folks to be respectful of the downtown businesses and use the public restrooms that have been brought in for the day. There are nine throughout downtown, 10 if you count the restroom by the Visitors Center.


6. Button up and show your support for the parade

The Butter & Egg Days poster art has been adapted to a fun, commemorative button. By purchasing a button for $5 at Raley’s, Petaluma Market, Lombardi’s or the  Visitors Center you can show off your love of the parade and support it for future years. Plus, wear your button and enjoy discounts from downtown merchants during parade week.


7. Cutest chicks and cow chips

Of course, the centerpiece of the day is the parade at noon. But there are some not to be missed pre-parade activities including the Cutest Little Chick Contest at 10:15 am in front of Copperfields Books (140 Kentucky St.).  Moms have been gluing feathers and sewing felt for weeks in hopes of having their little chick named the most adorable.

How exactly does one throw a cow chip? The answer: very carefully. But our chips may have more structural integrity than one might expect. They go through a very thorough drying and painting process in preparation. Limber up your arm and be in front of McNear's (23 Petaluma Blvd N.) at 9:45 am to register with cow chip chairman Tom Corbett for the 10 am competition. Let the chips fall where they may.


8. It takes a small army of volunteers

More than 200 volunteers come out to keep the parade route safe, pour beer, carry banners, and line up the parade. If you see a volunteer in a blue t-shirt with the parade logo, give them a shout. We couldn’t do it without them!

9. Come back on Sunday for the Antique Faire

The Butter & Egg Days fun doesn’t end on Saturday.  Overnight, the downtown streets are cleaned and transformed to an open-air marketplace for the Antique Faire on Sunday, April 24 from 8 am to 4 pm. With more than 180 vendors with antiques ranging from campaign buttons to armoires, it’s a beautiful day to stroll, shop and savor living in Sonoma County!


10. Enjoy breakfast before the Antique Faire in the historic Masonic Lodge

It’s a rare opportunity to step inside the Petaluma-Hamilton Lodge #180 built in 1881 at 9 Western Ave. The Masons will be serving a delicious pancake breakfast from 8 am to 11 am. Proceeds support their community development and public education programs.


And lots more info at!

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A round of applause for Cinnabar Theater


Last Sunday, Steve and I went to Cinnabar Theater for a matinee performance of Time Stands Still from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Donald Marguiles.


Cinnabar has been presenting its unique brand of theater since 1972. In Cinnabar’s intimate setting, the audience experiences the drama as if it were taking place one’s own living room -  albeit a room with a theatrical lighting grid and populated with charismatic performers.


The blurb for Time Stands Still describes it as “…a moving and often hilarious story of relationships, mid-life crisis and the ties of friendship.” The versatile ensemble of four talented actors vividly brought to life the wrenching conflict faced by a wounded photojournalist who must choose between her a adrenaline-fueled career and her long-time lover’s desire for family and a peaceful domestic life. 


When Steve and I see a movie or play that we really enjoy, we often comment that it's because "there is no bad casting." That's certainly the case in Time Stands Still; the actors are perfectly cast for their roles.


Seeing the production reminded me of what a powerful presence Cinnabar Theater is in our community. We have the opportunity to see performances worthy of major cities right in our own backyard...but without the big city prices. In addition to producing exceptional theater, the organization is behind a couple of Petaluma's most beloved events: the Chili Cookoff, Salsa & Beer Tasting which is coming up on May 7th and the Taste of Petaluma in August. And while my children's acting talent was never going to take them beyond a crowd scene in a play, they had a ton of fun participating in classes at Cinnabar. 


One note about Time Stands Stillthe production contains strong language and mature themes. Recommended for ages 16 and up.


Photo courtesy of Cinnabar Theater.

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Tracking Petaluma's Railroad History

In preparation for the Butter & Egg Days special section in the Argus Courier, I had the opportunity last week to interview a few members of the NWPRRHS.


Yes, that’s a mouthful – it stands for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society. Because this year’s parade theme centers on the impact of trains both in our history and future with SMART, it was only fitting that this group be honored as the parade Grand Marshal.


Before meeting with the NWPRRHS, I really didn’t give much thought about the contribution that trains have made to our community.  For most of us in our day-to-day lives, unless we happen to be driving across town when the crossing arms come down at an intersection, railroads just aren’t that important to us. Like dinosaurs, they were an enormous presence at one time, but beyond just being impressed by their size, why should we care?


After spending a couple of hours with the NWPRRHS, I have a much different perspective. As president Charlie Siebenthal explained, if it weren’t for the Redwood Empire railroads, there would not be a Redwood Empire. Period. If you didn’t live by a river or on the coast, you couldn’t get anywhere until the expansion of the railroads.


And while most of us don’t spend much time thinking about trains, the cool thing is that the members of the NWPRRHS spend a lot of time – and skills and resources – to ensure that this significant era of our history is collected, archived and restored.


Some of the members developed a connection with railroads as children, either by playing with train sets or living near railroads. Other members were drawn to the organization as adults by a love of history or an opportunity to participate in the hands-on restoration of a railcar. But as Charlie said, “Once the railroad bug bites you, it doesn’t let go.”


Beyond their fascination with the mechanics and history of trains, what impressed me about the NWPRRHS members is their inherent curiosity. They are detectives with a strong drive to dig deeper to complete the picture and be able to tell the story of the railroads more fully. That takes many different forms for them. It could be uncovering the history of a donated railcar door, cataloging 8,000 drawings from an original Northwestern Pacific Railroad engine department, or consulting with SMART engineers.


The NWPRRHS shares their extensive knowledge and archives with the public at the William R. Hogerty Library at 1364 N.McDowell, across from the Kohl’s shopping center. They are open every Thursday from 10am to 4pm and the first Saturday of the month.


The passion of NWPRRHS members is infectious. Visit with them and you might just find yourself bitten by the railroad bug.


Sonoma County Restaurant Week - March 7-13


You’ve completed the dreaded task of gathering all your documents for your taxes. What’s the perfect way to reward yourself? Dine out during Restaurant Week!

From March 7 through March 13, many of Petaluma’s most popular restaurants have created special Restaurant Week menus offering their delicious Wine Country fare at a fantastic price. It’s a great opportunity to dine at one of your favorites or explore a restaurant that’s been on your “must try” list.

How does it work? Each restaurant is offering a 3-course prix-fixe dinner menu at one of three price points: either $19, $29 or $39. Some casual dining spots feature a 2-course prix-fixe lunch option priced at $10 or $15. There’s nothing that you need to print out from a website or passes to purchase. However, reservations are recommended because restaurants will certainly fill up fast, especially as the word spreads during the week about the exceptional food and value.

As they say in election season, “Dine early and dine often!”

Participating Petaluma restaurants:

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The Force is strong in Petaluma at Rancho Obi-Wan


You don’t have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to be transported to the awe-inspiring world of Star Wars. Who would have thought that in rural west Petaluma, about 0 minutes from downtown, on property that once housed a chicken ranch, you would find Rancho Obi-Wan, a museum housing the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Created by former Wall Street Journal LA bureau chief and current Lucasfilm Fan Relations Advisor Steve Sansweet, the 9,000 square foot museum houses a collection of more than 300,000 unique Star Wars collectibles.

The folks at Rancho Obi-Wan generously hosted a tour of the museum for the staff and volunteers from the Petaluma Visitors Center last Friday. Star Wars geeks who visit Rancho Obi-Wan will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. For those of us whose understanding of the saga is limited to knowing that Darth is the bad guy and Luke is the good guy, you’ll still find a visit to the museum exhilarating. The memory of it stays with you.

Our tour started with General Manager Anne Neumann giving us a little history of the museum and explaining how Steve who is a “born collector” came to combine his passion for collectibles, his talent as a writer and love of Star Wars into Rancho Obi-Wan with its mission of “inspiration and education.” The museum became a non-profit in 2011; revenue from ticket sales goes to run the museum and is never used towards purchasing collectibles. They donate tours to school groups, often tailoring them to the specific educational interest of the group. That’s a field trip no one would want to miss!

Once inside the museum, President and CEO Steve Sansweet took over. He has written or co-authored 17 books on Star Wars and is a recognized authority on all things Star Wars. His energy and enthusiasm for sharing his passion is contagious. When he says, “Let me show you the wonders of the Star Wars galaxy,” I found myself ready to jump on board the closest Millennium Falcon.

I think their mission of inspiration is what surprised me the most about the museum. I was expecting to see plenty of manufactured action figures (they have 2300 of them), light sabers and starships. What I didn’t expect to see were all the one-of-a-kind expressions of fan art. Fans worldwide draw upon the Star Wars characters and stories to inspire their own creativity in whatever medium that they work in. It could be an artist in Mexico who creates a Bantha piñata out of papier-mache, a full set of origami-style paper characters, a crocheted Leia, or a miniature carved wooden Yoda.

Another reason that Rancho Obi-Wan is fun to visit regardless of your level of immersion into Star Wars is because of the huge range types of products that bear the Star Wars branding; there is something everyone can relate to. The food products are lots of fun. I especially liked the can of Niblets Corn from Hungary with Han on the label.

Our tour was an abbreviated “walk-through” and took almost two hours but a regularly scheduled tour takes four hours and now I understand why; it’s because almost every item in the 300,000 piece collection has its own unique story. How did the museum acquire the life-size Lego sculptures of Boba Fett and Darth? Steve bought them when toy store FAO Schwarz went out of business. How about the 600 pound Darth face? That has been a display item in the Times Square Toys R Us store. They called Lucasfilm and they referred them to Rancho Obi-Wan. Anne says, “We’re the garbage collectors of Star Wars.”

Thank you Steve and Anne for an incredible experience! We are so proud to have Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma. Rancho Obi-Wan invites you to join them at their fundraiser at Lagunitas on Tuesday, May 3rd. Details will be available on the website.

Here's a short video from our tour.


Rancho Obi-Wan is available for hosting parties, meetings and retreats. Yoda says, "A unique venue, this is."


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