I was surprised when Chris Samson, editor of the Argus Courier, called to ask if I could cover the Butter and Egg Days Parade for the newspaper.

Wow, I’m being asked to write about what is possibly the most important annual event in Petaluma. That’s like covering the inauguration for the Washington Post or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the New York Times.

But before I get too full of myself, it’s also possible Chris called me because he couldn’t find anyone else in his stable of writers who was willing to spend six hours on their feet in the sun on a Saturday when they could be taking care of numerous chores at home.

But whatever the reason, I was happy to take on the assignment. As I heard over and over again from people I talked to on Saturday, the parade is one of the events that makes Petaluma unique. As parade coordinator Toni Bodenhamer so aptly said, the parade makes Petaluma a hometown and not just a town. And I feel the same way.

People talk a lot these days about making things interactive. And I think that’s why the Butter and Egg Days Parade is such a success. It is totally interactive. You can shout out to your friend riding on a float and they wave back to you. You can show up to watch the parade and end up being in it; yesterday, all you needed to do was buy a $5 “We Love Our Parade” button and you could be on the last float in the parade.

How many other parades can you be the drum major with no training or experience? That happened to my daughter, Jennifer. She came home last Thursday with the drum major baton because there was a sudden need to fill the drum major slot in the Petaluma Junior High band and based on a brief in-class audition, she was chosen. She spent the next two days practicing twirling the baton around the house with me periodically shouting “Don’t chip the paint on the walls!”

Although she was a little nervous leading the band in the parade, she did just fine. That’s because Jennifer, like the other parade participants, wasn’t there to show off her skills, she was there to show spirit. And that infectious community spirit permeates the day.

I certainly hope the Petaluma Downtown Association never becomes so successful that they have the budget to call in professional float designers and organizers because then it would no longer belong to the community. It’s the novice drum majors and homemade floats crafted out of hay bails, tinsel and duct tape, that make it a great parade.