Parade inspires unity

El Sobrante Stroll draws large crowd, celebrates community

By Denis Perez, Assistant Photo Editor

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EL SOBRANTE —  Community members, performers, schools, advocacy groups, religious congregations and vendors shut down the heart of San Pablo Dam Road for the 23rd Annual El Sobrante Stroll street festival and parade, hosted by the El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce on Sunday.

Contra Costa County District I Supervisor John Gioia said, “This  is about the El Sobrante community coming together. It’s getting bigger every year.”

The stroll stretched from El Portal Drive to Appian Way with over 200 booths and about 20,000 people converged onto the street throughout the day.

San Pablo resident Alva Martinez said this was her third year attending the stroll. Martinez said this year the stroll was better because of the larger amount of parade participants and booths along the street.

She said she saw many booths that had set up for their first time.

The Grow for Vets Livermore California Chapter President Anthony Rangel said community- oriented events like the stroll are a great way to talk with the community about sensitive subjects, like advocating for free marijuana for veterans with post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or drug addictions.

Rangel said it was the first year Grow for Vets set up a booth at the El Sobrante Stroll.

Peniel Baptist Church member Atajinare Jarrean said there are all kinds of different people from different “walks of life” coming together who normally wouldn’t.

Jarrean said the church tried setting up a booth three years ago, and now uses the stroll as a way to fundraise and push their message forward.

Parade Judge Sherly Sharp said the El Sobrante Stroll’s parade lets schools, clubs, politicians and community programs compete for the judges’ awards on seven categories: spirit and cheer, outstanding music group, outstanding dance group, creativity, theme, outstanding number of participants and a new award this year, the judges’ award.

The Contra Costa College Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program led the parade with an ambulance driven by retired Contra Costa Community College District  Police Chief Charles Gibson as EMT students walked alongside.

El Cerrito resident Daniel Reyes was one of CCC’s EMT students who walked in the parade.

Reyes said even though people have misconceptions about the college, it was great to be part of the El Sobrante community.

The college’s performing arts department performed a Latin dance routine in the parade. Sharp said CCC performing arts students won the Outstanding Dance Group award.

CCC performer Marie Frank said, “In the parade they did bachata and would like (community members) to join (them). We had brand new dancers performing in front of everyone. They were nervous, but they (did) a great job.”   

Sharp said St. Paul’s Elementary School won an award for outstanding spirit, De Anza High School won an award for outstanding number of participants.

The Pinole Valley High School marching band won the outstanding music group award.

Murphy Elementary School won the creativity award and Windermere Real Estate won the judges’ award for their superb creativity.

The temperature in El Sobrante was 81 degrees during the stroll. Many people found refuge from the sun under anything that provided shade.

A small sinkhole that opened in the middle of the road had to be coned off during the parade and was filled in after as people walked up and down the street.