Thursday, December 4, 2008
The Tree Lighting at La Plaza
La Plaza is where the action is in Cotati, CA.
Smack-dab in the middle of town on Old Redwood Highway, between the business district and the 101 freeway, a goodly number of civic events take place in this central park: the annual Accordian Festival (don't laugh; it's an international event at which all those who have brought their accordians along assemble, around midday, to play Lady of Spain in a group!); the summer Farmers' Market; the Jazz and Arts Festival; the Kids' Parade and Festival; the Cotati Oktoberfest, etc.
Last evening it was the annual Tree Lighting and arrival of Santa Claus. It was the first time since I moved here a year and a half ago that I had a chance to participate. Well, maybe "participate" is a bit much. I have to say that the whole event was somewhat "loosely" organized, though I'd estimate that about 150 people, mostly kids, showed up. The Rohnert Park/Cotati Children's Choir, a half dozen youngsters, all girls, sang a medley of festive carols. Trouble was, there was no lighting, so you could barely see them; the PA system wasn't functioning to par (felt as though I was back in church!); the crowd was all spread out: some kids more fascinated with the playground, a fair representation of nearby Sonoma State University students milling about in groups, texting or yakking on their cellphones. A couple (high school, I suspect) sitting at one of the many picnic tables in the park amidst the crowd were preoccupied with lavishing their physical affections on one another. I was tempted to suggest that they go get a room, but thought better of it!
Nevertheless the choir girls did a good job, a mercifully short performance, in view of all the disarray plus the chill of the evening. All then gathered near the large tree, adjacent to the main drag, and began the countdown for the lighting. Moments later the strands of multi-colored lights flicked on, and though it was far from as impressive and grandiose as the one seen in the picture here, it served its purpose for our small community. Trees with lights, especially outdoors, always seem quite magical.
There was at least a momentary pause of wonder as all gazed upward at the festive scene. Soon, the crowd began to drift across the park and the main street, aided by a force of Cotati's finest, to the Rancho Adobe Fire Station, where all were hosted to coffee and cookies. The lines were, yes, disorganized, and long: took about 20 minutes to wend our way to the table of steaming and sweet delights. There was something going on in the other big station room, but the entrance was so crowded that I never discovered what it was. At least there was a table where we were able to drop off toys and food which the local firemen, bless them, distribute at Christmas.
As I began to circulate, I ran into one of our newly elected (actually, re-elected for a third term) City Council members, Janet Orchard. I'd met her and her family just before leaving Ukiah at her mother's funeral. Her mother, Ruth, had been a faithful parishioner, involved for many years in the church school (before my time), then had moved away. I told Janet that I regretted not discovering, when Ruth was still there, that she'd been an ardent Democrat all her life. We would have had some wonderful discussions, I'm sure. As we chatted, Janet and I were joined by Lisa Moore, one of the waitresses at my Friday lunch haunt, Tubby's Restaurant -- great tuna melts and Cotati omelets! -- whom, I discovered from Janet, had previously been on the Council. She, in turn, discovered from Janet that I'm a priest. Ya' never know!
Before I moved here, I'd never visited Cotati and had only a vague idea of where it was located. During the last year and a half I've learned to love this little community. There's a frequently occurring sticker which you see around town; it says "Keep Cotati Weird". I don't know who coined it or exactly what it means, but it seems to "fit" somehow.
I'm certainly proud to be counted among our town's citizens!