Santa Rosa’s ‘Peanuts’ Celebration


City of Santa Rosa :: Tourist Charlie greets visitors outside the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitor's Bureau on Fourth Street


Updated: 8/22/2005

This story was written by Citizen Journalist Amy Meade. We encourage you to click the Tip Jar to support this writer's work.
...they encourage all of us, young and old, to retain a sense of optimism and hope in the face of heckling and criticism.

Santa Rosa's 'Peanuts' Celebration

By Amy Meade

Happy News Citizen Journalist

Good Grief! After stints as a Flying Ace, mystery author, and Bird Scout leader has Snoopy moved on to become Joe Artist? A cursory glance at the city of Santa Rosa, California might lead one to think that the comical canine himself had a hand in placing 55 hand painted statues of his famous master in various locations throughout the city, but in fact it's a city-wide tribute to the work of Charles Schulz entitled, "It's Your Town, Charlie Brown."

A Minnesota native, Charles Schulz was born in St. Paul on November 26, 1922, but Santa Rosa, California was the home of Schulz during the most prolific part of his career.

An early fan of comic strips, Schulz knew from youth that he was a natural to the genre. In his senior year of high school, he enrolled in a correspondence cartooning course in hopes of moving into the field upon graduation. His plans for an art career, however, were temporarily sidelined by the United States' entry into World War II, in which he served as a machine gun squad leader in Germany, Austria, and France.

Discharged from the army in 1945, Schulz faced the same post-war hardships as other veterans. Trying to adapt to civilian life, he sold several panel cartoons to various publications, such as The Saturday Evening Post, and taught cartooning classes at the local art school, but it was not until he drew upon his own experiences - especially a black and white boyhood dog named Spike and a bunch of art students named Lucy, Linus, and Frieda - that he finally achieved success.

After numerous rejections, Peanuts (a title Schulz never liked) was finally purchased by United Features Syndicate, who ran the first strip on October 2, 1950. Eight years later, Schulz and his family would move to Santa Rosa, California, where he would remain until his death on February 13, 2000. "It's Your Town, Charlie Brown" commemorates the 55th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip, as well as the nearly 45 years that Schulz lived and worked in Santa Rosa.

"Mr. Schulz and his family have made, and continue to make, a profound impact on our community. Their generosity has helped hundreds of our citizens and nonprofit agencies. It is, therefore, only fitting that we pay tribute to the Peanuts comic strip and its creator," says Santa Rosa Mayor Jane Bender.

The event is modeled after St. Paul's hugely successful 'Peanuts on Parade' program, which, from 2000 to 2004, highlighted a different Peanuts character each summer. Each character was created into 5-foot-tall statues, which were placed in various locations throughout the city. At the end of the summer, the sculptures were auctioned off and the proceeds given to the Art Instruction School where Schulz taught.

TivoliToo Inc., a sculpture company that operates out of St. Paul, provided the blank Charlie Brown statues for both the St. Paul program and the current Santa Rosa exhibit. After their initial casting, the statues were kept in an airport hangar where, from Thursday, May 5 to Sunday, May 8, both residents and visitors alike could watch the 'Charlies' being painted by local artists according to different themes.

On May 22, the Charlie Brown statues were placed on public display throughout the community where they will remain on exhibit until September 25, when they will be moved to Courthouse Square and 'The Charlie Brown Blockhead Party', featuring food, live music and children's activities, will be held. Following the party, the statues will be sold at auction. The funds raised from this event will go towards local artist scholarships and the erection of permanent bronze sculptures at the Charles M. Schulz Airport in Santa Rosa: an ideal spot since the current exhibit seems to be attracting worldwide attention.

"We're getting visitors from all over. Literally," says Janet Condron, City Councilwoman and organizer of "It's Your Town, Charlie Brown."

To help those visitors locate statues during the exhibit, maps are available at the Visitors Bureau. Upon following the map, they'll encounter Charlie all over town - the train station, the mall, the hospital - dressed in attire appropriate to each site. In addition, they'll be led to two other places of Peanuts interest: the Charles M. Schulz Museum and the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, otherwise known as 'Snoopy's Home Ice'.

For the length of the "It's Your Town" tribute, the Charles M. Schulz Museum is home to 6 of the 55 Charlie Brown statues on display. Year round, it houses a vast collection of comic strips, comic books, and Peanuts-related artwork and hosts a variety of rotating exhibits running the gamut from the biographies of Peanuts contributors, to cartoon canines, to the art of comics. And, with the construction of the Snoopy Labyrinth nearly complete, it's a great place for kids and adults alike. Admission for adults is $8, $5 for seniors and children. For hours and a description of current exhibits, go to www.schulzmuseum.org.

In conclusion, the Peanuts gang is looking very good for their age, but, like their human counterparts, that may have more to do with positive attitude than simple luck or genetics. From Snoopy's dreams of grandeur to Linus's ability to salvage a scrawny pine tree and turn it into a Christmas lesson to Charlie Brown's ever-hopeful attempts to kick a football, they encourage all of us, young and old, to retain a sense of optimism and hope in the face of heckling and criticism.

That's something that everyone, everywhere, can celebrate.


This story was produced by a Happynews Citizen Journalist.

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This story was produced by Happynews Citizen Journalist Amy Meade. Amy Patricia Meade is a freelance writer whose first novel, Million Dollar Baby, is to be released on April 1, 2006. To find out more information on Amy and her book, please visit her Web site.

For more information on contributing to Happynews, click here.

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