A friendly crowd of locals, history buffs and the extended family of the Native Sons (and Daughters) of the Golden State converged on the , in recognition of the 166th anniversary of the raising of the Bear Flag over "Alta California," at Gen. Mariano Vallejo's garrison.
"It went fantastically well for us this year," said Dean Zellers of the local N.S.G.W., "even with the hot weather."
He estimated that about 350 people took part in the micro-brew tasting, which is a big part of the fund-raising from the event. "People said it wasn't as crowded, but we had more room this year in the back quadrant of the park." At this point a final tabulation of the funds raised from the event are not yet available.
The memorial flag-raising, in the northeast corner of the at the site of the Bear Revolt memorial, went off without a hitch at the stroke of 11 a.m., organized by the local Parlor #111 of the N.S.G.W. Flags from the many periods of government in the region were on display, but the centerpiece was a replica of the original "Bear Flag" raised at the site on June 14, 1946.
The Bear Flag became the official state flag just over 100 years ago, in 1911. The Bear Flag monument statue at the site was erected in 1914, and a special centenary event is planned for June 2014.
Following speeches, invocations, speakers and the presentation of a last year's Bear Flag to Mayor Pro Tem , and the raising of the new flag, the real fun began. The chicken barbecue smoked and the micro-brew booths opened, and from noon until about 4 the Plaza was filled with locals and visitors alike to celebrate the historic event - or at least to enjoy the live music, good food and warm weather in the Plaza.
"It was lovely," said Brown, who had special praise for the N.S.G.W. "They do a fabulous job. We dedicated a at 10 a.m., and they were there too."
"And I thought the chicken barbecue was fabulous," Brown added.
At 1 p.m., historian and actor George Webber put on an entertaining re-enactment of the Bear Flag Revolt in the Plaza's Grinstead Amphitheater, with himself playing the part of Gen. Mariano Vallejo. "George just does a fantastic job each year," said Zellers. "And the whole cast of characters he has -- I don't remember it being as flawless as it was this year."
The event lasted until about 5 in the afternoon, and soon all the barbecued chicken sold out. The popular cover band played to a happy if somewhat sun-baked crowd who came from around the state to enjoy the day.
The Native Sons of the Golden West was founded in 1875 as a statewide organization of preservation, community service and charitable endeavors. For the NSGW, the flag-raising ceremony and Bear Flag event in Sonoma is a major annual event, marking as it does the first tangible step toward statehood.
One highlight was the exhibit by the Bear Flag Museum of photos, badges, pins and of course flags from their collection. Bill and Peggy Rose of the online museum enjoyed sharing trivia and tales, and pointing visitors to the virtual museum founded by William Trinkle in 2007.
The Bear Flag was designed by William Todd, according to lore, with the crude form of a grizzly bear, a star in one corner, and a red stripe across the bottom. The flag flew over Sonoma's square for less than a month, however, replaced by the Stars and Stripes on July 9 when the U.S. took possession of what became the State of California.