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River Heritage Days Celebrate Petaluma's Roots

Check out old schooners, enjoy some barbecue and learn about Petaluma's history at River Heritage Days this weekend

From the late 1800’s through the 1920’s scow schooners connected Petaluma and San Francisco by hauling cargo up and down the river. These sailing barges carried hay down from Petaluma to feed the horses of San Francisco, while also ferrying lumber from San Francisco up and down the meandering Petaluma Creek.

At the same time, San Francisco’s Chinese fishermen built their own traditional-looking junks to fish for shrimp in the shallows of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. These junks, built with American lumber and Chinese boatbuilding techniques, provided shrimp for San Francisco markets as well as for drying and shipping overseas.

This year, on October 11 - 14, Alma, the last remaining scow schooner will visit Petaluma along with the Grace Quan, a replica of a late 1800’s San Francisco Bay shrimp junk. In partnership with the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association and The Friends of the Petaluma River, both vessels from San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park will participate in a number of events involving students from local schools as well as the general public.

On Thursday and Friday, October 11 and 12, grade school classes from Live Oak Charter and Grant Elementary will sail Alma on the Petaluma River and visit Grace Quan dockside at the Petaluma Marina. Students will learn the histories of both boats and their connections to Petaluma, while helping to set sail on the Alma and navigate her down the river.

Saturday, October 13, Alma and the Grace Quan will be open to visitors on the East side of the Turning Basin at Cavanaugh Landing free of charge. Both Alma and Grace Quan will be open from 11 AM til 4 PM, with crew onboard to answer questions and show visitors around.

From 4:30-7:30 The Friends of the Petaluma River will host a free happy hour, featuring The Easy Leaves at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center, with a bbq chicken dinner available for $10. A screening of the film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? will follow at 8pm, with a requested donation of $5 to benefit the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association’s education programs.

Sunday, October 14, Alma will sail the Petaluma River, leaving from the Petaluma Marina at 11am and returning at 2pm. Boarding begins at 10:30am and passengers  will have the opportunity to help raise the sails, as well as learn about the history of the Alma and her various careers on the river while enjoying the views of Petaluma marsh. Picnic lunches are welcome! Tickets may be purchased in advance at Saturday’s open house, adults are $20, children under 12 are free. Space is limited so pre-purchasing tickets is recommended.

For more information on Alma and Grace Quan’s visit to Petaluma, please contact SFMNPA Education Coordinator Mariah Gardner at mgardner@maritime.org or 415-292-6664 or Elizabeth Howland, Friends of the Petaluma River at Elizabeth@FriendsofthePetalumaRiver.org, or 707-364-4567.

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