NOTE: This story was updated on Sunday, July 15, to add water parade videos and more photos.
Healdsburgers, visitors and friends from across Sonoma County and the North Bay fell in love all over again with the Russian River at Saturday's
"The river has always been a part of past," said North Sonoma County a founder of the event, revived last year after a 100-plus year break. "Now it's a part of our future."
Water Carnival Director Liz Keeley said she was thrilled at the increased turnout, sponsorship and enthusiasm for this year's event.
"I met up with three people who said they had never been here before," Keeley said. "We opened up two extra parking lots this year -- and we needed it."
For McGuire, "it's a great day," he said. "For years, we've turned our back on the river, but now the love of the Russian River is coming bacK."
Starting with a float-filled water parade at 11 a.m., the day's festivities drew scores of spectators, partiers and participants.
"We've got more floats this year," said announcer Jim McCray, retired deputy director for Sonoma County Regional Parks.
returned to lead the parade, but this year was accompanied by a synchronized swimming team from the Redwood Empire Aqua Stars. The team wore period bathing suits to evoke the first Healdsburg Water Carnival in the early 1900s.
"My four god-daughters are visiting us this weekend," said Dick Bertapelle of Healdsburg, a member of the Raven Performing Arts Theater troupe, the Raven Players. "They are all swimmers, and they really got into the synchronized swimming."
A crowd favorite in the parade was a radio-controlled floating replica of the Titanic, in honor of the 100th anniversary of that ill-fated cruise ship. The metal fabricated boat was crafted by Healdsburg engineer (who also helped build Sandy the Swan), Rick Mercer, Patty Murphy, Cheryl Brooks and Doug Reynolds.
Barrel racing was popular later during the carnival, when boys and girls competed on floating barrels, using paddles to navigate a short course on the river.
"I want to get on one of those barrels," said Jacob Darby of Petaluma, who watched the races from a beach chair. Darby and his family came to the carnival to celebrate his grandmother's 60th birthday.
"I think it's adorable," he said of the event. "I like the floats -- I like the creativity."
McGuire said sponsors this year flocked to the carnival, putting the event in the black even before it started. The carnival, combined with the Great Russian River Race in May, are helping to sustain and maintain the -- and dam -- where the carnival takes place.
"The community has really stepped up to save our county's favorite swimming hole," McGuire said.
Lead sponsors were: Sonoma County Regional Parks, City of Healdsburg, Regional Parks Foudation, Sonoma County Water Agency, Syar Industries and and CalPine.
There were also 13 other sponsors, many of them local Healdsburg businesses and nonprofits.