FORESTVILLE, Calif. — They're kicking off the Poison Oak Festival here along the Russian River this weekend, complete with an itchy queen and "guideless tours of select patches of poison oak."
"What we really want to do is pay tribute from a respectable distance," Forestville Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Nancy Wallace said Friday.
"We want to find people itching to find good bargains (at a community sidewalk sale) without coming up with a lot of scratch."
Last year's sidewalk sale, a two-day event without a festival, attracted about 3,000 people, or five times the population of Forestville, a tiny Sonoma County town tucked between Sebastopol and Guerneville. (Guerneville is the home of the Banana Slug Festival.)
What's a festival without a queen? One will be crowned Sunday, selected from a bevy of beauties who suffered the worst case of poison oak in the last year.
The queen and all the other candidates, plus all those who take the guideless tour of poison oak patches, will receive free samples of Calamine lotion.
Herb Nurmi, another chamber spokesman, says Forestville is the perfect place to stage a poison oak festival.
"Despite centuries of highly discriminatory and unfair eradication practices," Nurmi said, "poison oak continues to flourish, demonstrating a remarkable resilience and indomitable spirit, which we like to think reflects the people of Forestville."