I admire people who don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the mountain in front of them but instead take it one step at a time. And through perseverance and passion, they get to the top.

I think that describes John and Joetta Furrer, the originators of Petaluma’s Salute to American Graffiti. You couldn’t meet two nicer people. But the really cool thing about them is that while they have created a hugely successful event, they are not event organizers.

They didn’t sit down with an event marketing team and strategize about what feature of Petaluma they could capitalize on in order to bring a lot of attention to Petaluma. Instead, they just followed their love of cars and the movie, and lo and behold, John, a retired PacBell fleet mechanic, and Joetta, a former instructional aid for Petaluma School district, have built an event that has taken on a life of its own.

But John and Joetta will be the first to say that they did it with the help and dedication of many other people. That’s another really great quality of theirs – their humility. They say they are constantly amazed by what the event has achieved – that it brings 30,000 people from all over the world into Petaluma.

Steve and I have gotten to know the Furrers over the eight years since the inception of the event. Steve has designed numerous posters and programs for the Salute and witnessed how they operate under the stress of putting on such a large and complicated event. Steve says he has learned a lot from John in how to work with people; he is honored to consider John a friend.

It’s great to hear John talk about how as a shy guy, he has really had to come out of his comfort zone – as someone who is involved in coordinating Butter & Egg Days, I know that John has had to come way out of his comfort zone. You don’t close downtown, work with vendors, the police, retailers, sponsors and volunteers, without knowing how to respectfully get your point across in a way that people can hear.

Because the reason for the event isn’t motivated by dollars and cents but is about celebrating Petaluma as a filming location and a love of the kind of the classic cars that play such a big role in the movie, the event has an authenticity about it that people really respond to. But that’s not to say that “Salute” isn’t good for Petaluma. It is – raising tens of thousands of dollars that are invested back into the community.

John and Joetta say this is their last year taking the lead on the event. I know there is a great group who has worked tirelessly with them who are ready to carry “Salute” forward. But to the two of them, a big thank you for your vision and hard work. You’re the best.