Over the decades, many of Sonoma County’s leading citizens have been hailed as Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade. This year, a pivotal year for Santa Rosa’s historic parade, the honor goes to a fifth-grade girl.

Zoe Valrey, who’s 10, was selected because she made lemonade of last year’s bitter news that declining sponsorships jeopardized Santa Rosa’s 115-year-old Luther Burbank Rose Parade.

“I’ve always loved the parade,” said Zoe, who was born in Santa Rosa and has lived all her life on the parade route downtown. “I really didn’t want it to end.”

So on the day of the ‘09 parade she set up a lemonade stand in front of her house. She made about $10, all of which she gave to the organizers who for a time last year couldn’t be certain there’d be another parade this year.

“We think Zoe embodies the spirit of the community,” said longtime parade manager Judy Walker.

Zoe wasn’t the only one to kick in to keep the parade alive. The largest donors were community leader and guardian Henry Trione and Jim Ratto, president of the refuse and recycling firm, North Bay Corp.

Though gifts large and small assured that the parade will return this year, the entire community needs to get involved to assure that it will remain vital into the future. Check out roseparadefestival.com for ways to contribute to the effort.

This is a big year for the Rose Parade, and not just because Zoe will be Grand Marshall. It happens on Saturday, May 15, just two days before the first springtime Amgen bicycle race screams into town.

The parade will celebrate the great race and Santa Rosa’s emergence as a cycling hub. Have you heard this yea’s theme?

Rose Pedals.

Organizers want to see more of the rose petals that adorned the moveable feast in years past, lots of bicycles, more floats (there’s a float-building workshop on Feb. 25) and more participation from schools, groups, businesses and folks from across the county.

No one hopes more that it’ll be one of the town’s greatest Rose Parades ever than a certain 10-year-old girl.