Capitola Begonia Festival Nautical Parade, California, August, 1976



From "The Memoirs, Chapter Ten":



            Iris Rooney had moved down the coast a bit to Santa Cruz, sleepy little beach town, so we had another nice party place to go to on the weekends and we spent a lot of time there.  It was in the nearby burg of Capitola, that we discovered they have each year a giant begonia festival, begonias grow well there in the sea air, it seems, and they cap off the festival each year with a nautical parade (!).  This was an actual parade but in boats on the water.  A shallow inlet is damned up each year and the banks crowded with spectators.  Each entry is given a small plywood raft of sorts and must bring their own outboard motor.  Well, we HAD to do it!


            Each entry in the parade was also required to pick their own begonias, some local begonia farmer donating the spent blooms in his field as the bulbs in the ground, the only "crop" of begonia farmers, were maturing.  We all went early to the field in our work clothes and began picking the blooms for our float.  We had to pick a lot of them as one of the criteria in the judging of the floats was "coverage" of your float with begonia blooms.  Well, we discovered quickly that begonias are nasty, big, mucus things that fell apart when you picked them and the thorny stems stung your hands and the ground was all muddy from recent irrigation.  Seems that everybody else knew about all that and had brought gloves and rubber boots and protective clothing.  We were bushed before we even began. 








            We had decided to do a float of a boat (!) and drew up plans for “The Old Showboat” based on a Mark Twain-type, Mississippi paddlewheeler, with two decks and rising smoke stacks, and southern belles and stevedores aboard.  I would stand nobly in the forecastle as Cap’n Bill.


            Our cardboard showboat soon towered above the other rafts in the staging area and our hearty crew went to work covering it with begonias.










            Well, we had early on decided to forgo an outboard motor, no money to rent one, of course, and we said we’ll row ourselves, no problem.  So the “stevedores” all had long poles and were ready to launch us off.




            We also decided we should have our own music to accompany our passage before the crowds and our own Pointless Sisters, Maria, Bermuda, and Bonnie, quickly volunteered with a sweet, swinging version of “Up the Lazy River.”  We arranged for them to be on the grandstand with the sound system, the only entry with such forethought.




            It was a beautiful, calm day at the beach and we watched as the other entries smoothly motored past the crowd, as we waited our turn.  Our float was easily the largest of all, certainly the tallest; our teetering cardboard paddle-wheeler, with its top-heavy second deck of hippies in all state of ridiculous dress, slightly listing in the shallow water.  Soon it would be our turn to be announced and pull out into the procession.






            Suddenly we heard the loudspeakers announce “Triple A Productions” and “The Old Showboat” and then the first strains of “Up the Lazy River.”  Our hearts beat rapidly as the stevedores glided us onto the river and pointed us upstream.  We all waved to the cheering sidelines.





            Just then a slight breeze picked up, the first of the day, and began gently blowing us BACKWARDS.  We had of course never practiced or planned any of our maneuvers nor thought much of it, but suddenly the boat was way too unwieldy for the little stevedore poles and the breeze made it impossible to advance.  The crowd gasped in horror.  The Old Showboat, with the singing sisters and the southern belles and Cap’n Bill was not going to make it.




            We panicked.  The stevedores all jumped overboard and started frantically pushing.  Russell had been taking photos from the shore, fully clothed, and even he jumped in.  The boat listed precariously and the southern belles looked a bit sick; I’m sure Cap’n Bill did too.  But then, slowly, our backward progress was halted and we began to move forward!  A giant roar erupted from the shore as the audience cheered our ridiculous little crew, overcoming the enormous problems of such a BIG boat battling the winds and the waves, the forces of the Pacific Ocean and nature herself to compete in the Annual Capitola Begonia Festival Nautical Parade.  We won third place.




            We even made it into the papers the next day, some wise-acre headline writer calling us the Golden Hinde!  Hmmmm ...




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