NEWARK -- The sun struggled to peek through the clouds on a drizzly, muggy Saturday, but that did not stop Newark Days festivalgoers from enjoying the city's 55th birthday bash.
The event included the usual festival attractions -- an arts-and-crafts fair, a car-and-truck show, a mobile petting zoo and pony rides -- along with a carnival and two stages with live entertainment ranging from Taiko drumming to belly dancing. The four-day festival will conclude today.
"I always enjoy it," said Lucy Sarmento, of San Jose, who has been coming to Newark Days for the past couple years. "I love the atmosphere, the different booths, the different vendors. It's a nice family atmosphere."
Saturday's highlight was the parade that started near City Hall, traveled down Newark and Cedar boulevards and ended at the MacGregor School and playfields, where most of the festival took place. The parade included dozens of floats, marching bands and cheerleaders from area schools and, with the Nov. 2 elections fast approaching, candidates in a variety of local races.
The parade featured KTVU Channel 2 reporter John Sasaki as grand marshal and Snoopy from California's Great America theme park in Santa Clara as the children's grand marshal.
Sarmento said the festival reminded her of old-school parade-carnivals that can be hard to find in the Bay Area nowadays.
"It's got the old hometown feel," she said.
Some longtime residents, though, look back nostalgically on a time when Newark Days was smaller still.
"It's gotten much bigger," said Gene Baranowski, 72, who has lived in Newark for 38 years and worked on some of the earlier Newark Days events. "When we were involved with it, it was more of a community thing. It's gotten more professional."
Baranowski attended Saturday's event with his wife, Anna Marie, and daughter, Jeanne, who used to sell corn on the cob at the festival when she was a high school senior.
"When we first started 35 years ago, there were five food booths," Anna Marie said, gesturing toward the refreshments on sale -- everything from fresh fruit cocktails to tri-tip and teriyaki chicken. "It was a family thing."
Newark Days will continue today, concluding with the presentation and cutting of the birthday cake at 4 p.m. The carnival will run noon-9 p.m. For more information, go to www.newarkdays.org.