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The Richmond waterfront, an undiscovered Bay Area gem

"Rosie" Priscilla Elder
C. Canter

The lure of a fabulous fireworks display on the eve of July 4th brought me to the Richmond waterfront for the first time. The Oakland East Bay Symphony played John Philip Sousa marches, show tunes and other suitably rousing songs inside the gorgeous glass Craneway Pavilion, a former Ford Assembly Plant transformed into the Bay Area’s largest state-of-the-art event space.

At the conclusion of the concert, the audience gathered outside on the open-air patio for the fiery finale. The water lapped the pavilion, the view stretched across San Francisco Bay, and the band played on, as a symphony of fiery flames burst across the sky.

The Sixth Annual Target Independence Day Celebration takes place Thursday, July 3. The free event opens at 6:30pm with performances by Oaktown Jazz Workshops and other local groups. The Oakland East Bay Symphony concert, conducted by Music Director Michael Morgan, will engage the audience with plenty of sing-along opportunities starting at 8pm. The Grand Finale of music and fireworks lights up the waterfront at 9:15pm.

The Richmond Waterfront is an undiscovered Bay Area gem, so arrive early if possible, or plan to return for a full day visit, rich in history, architectural interest, and scenic beauty.

The restaurant adjacent to the Craneway Pavilion, aptly named Assemble, features Executive Chef Maggie Pond’s take on modern American cuisine. Locally sourced ingredients include herbs and veggies from Assemble’s own Victory Garden. The industrial décor incorporates original equipment from the Ford Boiler Room.

The Visitor Education Center at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park is located next door to Assemble, also in the Historic Ford Building Complex. The Center offers a fascinating look at Richmond’s transformation from a sleepy California town of 20,000 into the booming shipbuilding center that launched more than 747 vessels during World War II, after Henry J. Kaiser established his first Richmond shipyard in December 1940. The Liberty Ship “Robert E. Perry” was assembled in less than five days as a part of a special competition among shipyards! Yet even by 1944, Liberty Ships were routinely assembled in just over two weeks!

Richmond’s population quintupled to 100,000, as a diverse multi-ethnic workforce came from across the nation, drawn by jobs to support the war effort. As women and minorities stepped up to the plate, “Rosie the Riveter” was born and captured the imagination of the entire country.

The films and displays at the Visitor Center pay a fine tribute to these remarkable workers, but the highlight is the opportunity to meet some of the actual “Rosie’s” who come to tell their story on Friday mornings.

These women, now in their 90s, learned very young that “they could do anything” and they convey that can-do spirit during informal, lively and inspiring talks at the Visitor Center. Many came from faraway farms to the shipyards, and found great freedom far from home. No strangers to hard work and quick learning, they have pioneered lifestyles that remain active and engaged. In fact, six Rosie’s were honored March 31 at the White House by Vice President Joe Biden. This was a welcome, if long overdue acknowledgement of their important place in our nation’s history.

Pick up info and maps at the Visitor Center that will lead to the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and the SS Red Oak Victory, the historic World War II cargo ship owned and maintained by the Richmond Museum of History.

Just outside the Visitor Center is a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a network of biking and walking trails that surround the Bay connecting the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties.

Round out your romp through Richmond history with an offshore perspective aboard Caprice, a beautiful cruising catamaran that sails out of Brickyard Cove in historic Point Richmond. A typical day cruise is a minimum of 3 hours, but Captain Dan and Carol Seifers will customize every voyage. Highlights of a recent sail were close-up vistas of the historic SS Red Oak Victory ship and the East Brother Light Station, a unique Victorian Bed & Breakfast atop a tiny island in the strait that separates San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

Visit the Richmond Convention & Visitors Bureau website for more information.

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