Flowers on the Water: Capitola Begonia Festival

It's the 61st year for one of the region's most whimsical summer sweetnesses.

PETALS AND FLOATS: We're quite sure that other places outside of California like to tie pretty and unusual things to vehicles -- think balloons and paper art and crepe paper and shoes and such -- and go parading. But we're rather known here for sticking flowery decorations to our floats.  Yep, there's a certain parade in a certain city called Pasadena and it has been marching for well over a century. But also in the venerable column? Capitola's annual Begonia Festival, which just passed the six-decade mark a year or so back. It comes down to this, we suppose: Revelers like building outlandish moving things, boats and floats, and then covering them in nature's bounty, something that comes naturally to the Golden State way of life.

HAPPY 61ST, BEGONIA BUFFS: The Nautical Parade is a centerpoint for the Labor Day Weekend whoop-di-do, no doubt, but there are several top to-dos over the begonia-loving bash's four-day run. A sand sculpture contest on Capitola Beach pits turreted castle against turreted castle -- or whatever else people like to build out of damp sand -- on Saturday, Aug. 31. And you can make time to watch the floats coming together at the construction viewing (this is an excellent way to see the work up-close, rather than from a watery distance).

THE PARADE ITSELF: The barges -- that's what they're called, and it is such an old and grand and literary word, we plan on using it all weekend long -- drift down Soquel Creek on Sunday, Sept. 1. Yep, they're heading for the Lagoon, but not at top speeds, meaning that "Finish" is the finishing time on the site, charmingly. (1 p.m. is the start.) How did this start? Well, Capitola is a rather amazing spot for growy things, some edible, some lookable, and begonias are definitely a star. Paddleboards were the first vessels decorated with the buds, back in the early '50s, a fact that about floors us with quaintness. But the quaint factor remains and reigns today. Haven't seen it? It's a charm of the coast, no doubt. If we even went out on a petal and called it begonia-icious, no one would quarrel with us, surely. Because it is.

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