Healdsburg Water Carnival - July 27, 2013

Healdsburg Water Carnival

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Healdsburg Water Carnival - July 27, 2013

A good time for the whole family arrives in Sonoma County on Saturday, July 27. The Healdsburg Water Carnival — an old-fashioned Russian River water pageant at Healdsburg's Veterans Memorial Beach — promises to be a day of splashy fun in the sun, the kind you'll remember for a while. And it's free.

The carnival's most popular event is probably the wacky river parade, filled with imaginative, often amazing, and sometimes very funny floats. The parade, which starts at 11 a.m., is led by a float known as Sandy the Swan; all the other floats follow her down the river like so many cygnets (baby swans) paddling after their mama. Needless to say, the beaches and river banks the floats pass are filled with happy and cheering crowds.

By the way, you can enter a float of your own. Rent a platform from Regional Parks and decorate it, or enter and decorate your own boat. To learn the details, fees and guidelines, visit this page.

Let your creativity sing out: The first place winner floats away with $1,000. Second place wins two airline tickets from Santa Rosa to San Diego, and third place nabs a cool $250. To apply, email Liz Keeley at [email protected]; write 'Parade Entry' in the subject line, and include your name and phone number.

Other events at the pageant include floating wine-barrel races, the Great American Rubber Duck Dash (with prizes), children's games and activities, live music, and lots of culinary treats from local food trucks.

Why not bring your swimsuits, towels, sunscreen and other beachy necessities, and spend the day? Lifeguards will be on duty, and there's a calm swimming area perfect for little tots.

Festive water pageants on the Russian River date back more than a century. Then, as now, the ingredients that made for a successful event included music, dancing, parades, floats, beautiful decorations, plenty of good food and drink — and, of course, lots of fun and games in the water.

Holly Hoods, Healdsburg Museum historian, wrote an article two years ago that described some of the goings-on at early water pageants on the Russian River. The 1908 Healdsburg Water Carnival, produced by the progressive Ladies' Improvement Club, attracted thousands of attendees who were dazzled by river floats that included a 'golden floating chariot' carrying the carnival's queen and her court, a golden barge bearing a woman representing 'California,' and Cleopatra's barge. There were also diving exhibitions, acrobatics on the bridge, a fireworks display — much of it accompanied by a brass band.

This year's Healdsburg Water Carnival is produced by Sonoma County Regional Parks and Healdsburg's Sunrise Rotary. Proceeds help maintain the summer swimming beach, and also help Sunrise Rotary Club support youth and family services.

What you need to know:

  • Date and time: The Healdsburg Water Carnival takes place on Saturday, July 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Location: Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg. Call the Ranger at 707-433-1625. The park is open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in summer.
  • Parking: The event is free, but parking is $7 (or free if you're a member of Regional Parks).
  • Park Amenities: Picnic facilities, restroom, par course, and lifeguards on duty during the summer from 10 a.m.-7:45 p.m.

Find other things to do in Sonoma County.


Suzie Rodriguez