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Stumptown Daze, Guerneville’s roots

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 | Posted by

On Saturday, June 11, greater metropolitan Guerneville will celebrate its 65th Annual Stumptown Daze parade, barbecue and all-around WhoopDeDoo, commencing with the parade down Main St. at 11 a.m.

The theme is “Back In the Saddle, Again,” so expect horses and cowboys and cowgirls and shoot’em-up gunfights between good guys and bad guys and marching bands (unless they get caught in the crossfire) and a color guard and big fire trucks with their horns and sirens and…and…and…

And after the parade, music and barbecue will be provided by the Volunteer Fire Department, starting at noon and lasting all afternoon. Suck on a rib and shake a leg! It’s all good.

After the barbecue is a concert beginning at 6 p.m. in the born-again and fabulous River Theater, featuring Midnight Sun, Bo Gypsy and the hugely popular gypsy/flamenco/zydeco band Dgiin (which is Roma for “genie in a bottle”). Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 advance tickets at the Chamber of Commerce office on the Guerneville plaza at the foot of the old bridge. Proceeds will go for the Fourth of July fireworks display, so if you want to see fireworks this summer, come to the RT and shake your booty!

Some background information here, courtesy of parade chairperson (alleged to have been born here) Valerie Houseman: The area was known as Stumptown during the mid-19th century because so many huge redwoods and fir were logged here (primarily to build San Francisco and keep re-building it after several big fires). One report in 1886 documented that trees cut from just one acre in “Big Bottom,” essentially the Russian River basin, yielded more than 1.4 million board feet of lumber. A photo from that era shows a stump with 18 men standing on it, shoulder to shoulder.

In 1865, Swiss-born George Emil Guerne and a couple of partners bought one of the area’s many sawmills from S.H. Torrance. When the area got its first post office in 1870, it was called “Guerneville,” making it official.

All went well until two world wars, floods and a bunch of other disasters caused tourism to take a beating. In 1946, some creative Guernevillians decided to take the proceeds from the town’s only slot machine and tour the North Bay and San Francisco announcing “Stumptown Daze – Guerneville is alive, well and open for business!” In those days, it was a three-day affair.

Some things never seem to change. Guerneville still has to re-invent itself after every flood. And back in 1946, if you came to Guerneville without a beard, you could get locked up. This year, the Fire Department has built a new “jail,” and for $5, you can have your buddy arrested and tossed in the hoosegow.

A number of traditions surrounding Stumptown Daze have come and gone
over the years. Perhaps the most only-in-Guerneville one was the banana slug recipe tasting contest. Contestants submitted their pip-hot creations to be judged by local celebs and politicians, including our supervisor and the county Sheriff on at least one occasion. An important part of the contest was to see whether the contestants or the audience was better at not hurling. Just picture it the next time you unintentionally squish a banana slug underfoot.

Every parade and celebration are different, but they are always a slice of American pie as baked by Norman Rockwell on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Come enjoy Americana, living history.

  • John De Salvio

    Ah, yes. The Slughetti was de-gag-licious. I was one of the judges. There were prizes for the largest slug, and for the winner of the Slug Race (slugs placed in the center of a 3-foot circle, then r-a-c-i-n-g to the outer edge of the circle. I think of it as The Slides of March. Remember the very last tee-shirt for Slugfest XII? Plain white shirt, a small woodcut of a grimacing face between the Roman numeral XII, a full color banana slug sliding up to the left shoulder (leaving a silver trail), and the slogan, “Disgusting, Yet Elegant.”
    Yup. That’s when we used to do things with (BARF!) class.

  • http://www.onlyinguerneville.blogspot.com Valerie Munthe

    So great to see Stumptown getting the attention and recognition it deserves. A couple correcting points: Valerie “Hausmann” is the Parade Chair, not a town historian, although she has lived here most her life. The only person credible enough to claim that title is John Schubert, who’s lived here for over 50 years and have written two books on the area.
    Keep the articles a’comin’!

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