Annual festival sparks citizen involvement, fun

El Sobrante Stroll draws large crowd, honors first responders

By Lorenzo Morotti, Editor-in-Chief

EL SOBRANTE — Thou-sands of people meandered up and down the middle of the street as they savored the inviting smells, sights and sounds of a rapidly changing community.

A section of San Pablo Dam Road, stretching from Appian Way and ending at El Portal Drive, was shut down to automobile traffic for The El Sobrante Stroll from 9 a.m. — 4 p.m. on Sunday.

El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce President Marie Carayanis had a part in creating the now 21-year-old tradition in 1993. She said, “We started the stroll to primarily help small, local businesses.”

Community activists, food vendors, organizations, local schools and merchants housed booths that stood parallel in front of the local businesses as people strolled from one to the next.

Among the 200 different booths, Contra Costa College was represented at the base of where Hillcrest Road winds its way down from Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

CCC automotive technology Services professor Peter Locke said, “It’s the best location. (CCC) is right in the center of the stroll.”

Administration of justice department Chairperson Rick Ramos said he has attended the event since he was about 10 years old. Today, however, would be the first time Dr. Ramos was in charge of announcing each parade float over the loudspeakers.

Ramos introduced the local K-12 schools, businesses, clubs and non-profit organizations that marched in the 11 a.m. parade.

“Today we are honoring first responders,” he said. “It’s our theme — the folks who keep you and me safe, everyday.”

Driving CCC’s newly painted emergency medical science program’s (EMS) ambulance was adjunct professor Scott Weatherby, while CCC President Denise Noldon waved to the rows of people from the passenger seat.

That car ride was Dr. Noldon’s first time in the parade. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “The people were responsive and it was good exposure for the college and its programs.”

Locke said that he and students from the Auto Collision course sprayed the blue and white details onto the EMS ambulance the week prior.

“We polished (the ambulance) and cleaned it up for the stroll,” Locke said.

He said that, after speaking with Ramos, he decided to bring CCC’s sim-spray machine, a virtual reality spray program that his students use in the garage.

Automotive major Rene Flores was at the stroll to help people test the sim-spray. He said he could not help but notice the welcoming atmosphere the event generated.

“(The stroll) lets a bunch of people get together,” Flores said. “Watching the kids, parents and people laugh and enjoy themselves really warms your heart. It reminds you that the world isn’t all negative.”

Locke said, “Its good to show our faces to the community. A lot of people don’t even know that the college exists and that flabbergasts me.”

Biochemistry major Roshun Rahimi was one of four EMS students walking behind the ambulance in the parade.

“(The stroll) is a great way to outreach to the community and have everyone come together to show first responders how much they are appreciated,” Rahimi said.

Regardless of the theme, the El Sobrante Stroll manages to attract more and more people every year.

Caryanis said, “Last year the (the chamber) recorded that about 20,000 people showed up, and this year we are expecting more.”

She said all the proceeds for the booths are to be used by the chamber to help beautify San Pablo Dam Road.

If people did not come for the food, parking lots full of classic American muscle cars or live bands, they came for the 1 and 3 p.m. BMX stunt shows organized by a local business, The Pedaler Bike Shop.

Jeff Jerge, owner of the bike shop, said that over the past years the BMX show has had several different sponsors from Walnut Creek, Antioch and Santa Cruz.

This year, however, local riders Jason Lopez, Nick Noble and others rallied together to put on the stunt show.

“We are proud of the fact (the stunt show) draws people into the stroll,” Jerge said. “By blocking this area to (automobile) traffic completely, for just one day out of the year, really gets people out on the street to check out what their community has to offer.”