Passenger traffic at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS) has steadily increased since Alaska/Horizon Air began service in 2007 ending six years of no commercial flights to Santa Rosa. (Alaska retired the Horizon brand in 2011.) The airline offered five flights a day — Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles — on 76-passenger turbo-prop aircraft. TSA had plenty of time; there was a one-hundred percent chance your checked bag would be inspected. Alaska has since added flights and destinations; they now also serve San Diego and Orange County. It worked out well for me. It saved me the usually tedious drive to the Oakland or San Francisco airport. Last year about 200,000 passengers passed through STS. American, United and Sun Country now also serve Santa Rosa.

It’s still mostly uncrowded and slow-paced with usually only one plane at a time on the tarmac. Except for a couple weeks in July, during the annual boys-club campout at Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio, a few miles northwest from Santa Rosa. That’s when the airport is cluttered with private jets, as many as fifty at a time, bringing Bohemian Club members to the airport from whence limousines carry them to the annual male bonding among the redwoods. The private-jet congestion at STS is almost comical.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted to provide supplemental sheriff patrols during the Bohemian Club’s annual gathering at its forest preserve along the Russian River. The club will pay $151,127 to the county for the protective services. This year the vote was preceded by vociferous debate with the three women supervisors, a first-time-ever majority, making known their feelings about the male-only gathering. Since its founding in 1872, the Bohemian Club has had four female members, all “honorary” members, the last in 1928.

The club was founded for artists, musicians and journalists. Jack London and Mark Twain were early members. The club’s character changed soon after when membership was opened to businessmen. Its secret membership includes international business leaders and policy-makers. The club’s headquarters is still at its original location in San Francisco. The club has kept its original name, maybe for the irony. The club also owns Bohemian Grove, a 2,700 acre “campground” in the redwood forest.

There is supposedly a decades-long waiting list for membership. The Bohemian Grove gathering is limited to members and their invited guests. Attendees at the yearly event have included Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Henry Kissinger. Planning for the Manhattan Project, developing the first atom bomb, took place at Bohemian Grove, as did strategizing for Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. White, non-Jewish corporate leaders and politicians from around the world can quietly spend time together without any bothersome women or news people. (There are some females among the high-school and college students hired to serve at the event.)

The event also brings protesters to the property’s entrance, some years more disruptive than others.

The club’s mascot is an owl, to symbolize wisdom. A thirty-foot owl statue keeps watch over the lake. The motto, “Weaving spiders come not here,” emphasizes that it’s all just for fun, no deal-making here, nope. The gathering begins with the “Cremation of Care,” a fiery ceremony “exorcising of the Demon to ensure the success of the ensuing two weeks.” An ongoing ritual is urinating on the redwood trees to “display man’s power over nature.”
Since 1984 power over nature has included logging redwood trees under a “nonindustrial timber management plan,” which allows for the production of timber without the annoying government oversight associated with industrial forestry.

In 2009 an intrepid writer finagled his way into Bohemian Grove. Vanity Fair published his report.

As the festivities wind down, the club sponsors the Monte Rio Variety Show, a fundraiser for the Fire Department, school and St. Catherine’s Church. It is expected to net about $60,000. Tickets are available at $30 for the July 25 event. You’ll need to check if there is space to park your jet at the Charles M. Schulz Airport.

“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” – George Carlin

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