More than 1,000 people lined the streets of downtown Danville Friday to watch a mid-afternoon homecoming parade that also celebrated the 100th anniversary of San Ramon Valley High School, one of the oldest high schools in the Bay Area.
The parade traveled from the school, located at the corner of Hartz and Railroad avenues, along a route which was adorned with colorful parade floats, convertibles and an old-fashioned early 20th century Ford Roadster. The procession included cars from each decade that the school has been in existence.
The parade route headed south on Railroad Avenue before turning east on Prospect Avenue. It then headed northbound along Hartz Avenue through the heart of downtown Danville.
"Today is a lot of fun," said Joe Ianora, San Ramon Valley High School principal. "There's a lot of excitement today. It's just a huge celebration that's not only going on today, but for the rest of the school year."
Friday's festivities also included a football tailgate celebration and an all-class reunion on the school's baseball field, featuring alumni from the 1930s to the graduating class of 2009.
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s, Friday afternoon's parade through downtown's streets caught everyone's attention. Danville police officers cordoned off through-traffic along the parade route.
The parade featured students from the current classes 2011 to 2014, along with a mixture of alumni from previous graduating classes, including a descendant from the first graduating class of 1914.
Grand marshal Millie Freitas, who graduated from the school in 1936, was a crowd pleaser. Riding along in a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible, Freitas was clearly enjoying herself, and the crowd enjoyed her presence in the parade.
"It's an amazing, overwhelming feeling" to be grand marshal, Freitas said. "It is such an honor for me."
Freitas, now in her early 90s, has lived in Danville for nearly her entire life.
She added there is certainly a big difference between the Danville of today and yesteryear.
"We were very rural back then," she said. "We didn't have too many activities going on at school. When school was finished, we just went home, did our chores and went to bed. When I was in school here, we probably had about 120 students."
After Freitas graduated in 1936, she attended business school in Oakland, then worked for the American Red Cross at the Monterey Presidio. In later years, she went on to work in the administrative offices of the Pleasanton Unified School District, where she was employed for 25 years.
"There's a sense of honor today with the parade and all of the events we have planned for the school year," Ianora said, who became the school's principal in 2004. On March 19, the school's new gymnasium opens. The following day, there will be a gala celebration to mark the school's first century of service to the San Ramon Valley.
"I love this place," Ianora said. "It's been a great place to call home."
San Ramon Valley High School is the second oldest high school in Contra Costa County. Today, it is a National Blue Ribbon school and a four-time California Distinguished School.
The oldest is Alhambra High School in Martinez, which was established in 1897.