May 29, 2019

The Redwood Empire Arena — Snoopy's Home Ice — Turns 50

(This special post is by 5CP Associate Editor Gayna Lamb-Bang.)

A milestone celebration took place at Santa Rosa’s ice arena on April 28, 2019.  Many people associated with the arena’s history attended the event, including Karen Kresge, director, choreographer and co-writer of the wonderful holiday ice shows; Judy Sladky, the one and only skating Snoopy; and famed ice skating star, Richard Dwyer (aka Mr. Debonair).

(For a history of Redwood Empire’s holiday ice shows, which ran from 1986 to 2003, read our previous blog entry.)

Charles M. Schulz grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his father would flood their back yard with a garden hose; this created a small skating rink, where Schulz played hockey with his friends.   

Judy Sladky and alter-ego
When Charles Schulz moved to California as an adult, he missed playing hockey.  Meanwhile, he and his family enjoyed skating at Santa Rosa’s existing ice arena.  Unfortunately, that rink had structural issues, and was forced to close.  

In 1969, Schulz and his first wife, Joyce, decided to build their own ice arena on an empty plot of land on Santa Rosa’s West Steele Lane.  Joyce spent a month in Europe seeking inspiration from the buildings and landscapes she admired. Thanks to this research, the Schulzs’ new rink was designed with a Swiss chalet-inspired exterior.  The interior is just as lovely, with hand-painted flowers and designs on the walls, and an overall old-world charm.

After the arena was completed, the April 28, 1969, grand opening gala was emceed by baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola. The show starred 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming, with music provided by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The rink has since provided skating and ice hockey for generations of children and adults.  But, after half a century, it’s necessary for the miles and miles of refrigeration steel pipes to be replaced with a high-density polyethylene piping system.  This $1 million renovation — to replace the below-ground infrastructure that keeps the ice smooth — began May 6, 2019, right after the anniversary ceremony, and is slated to be completed on Sept. 6, 2019.

To learn more about the Redwood Empire’s history, visitors to Northern California should check out the adjacent Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop; the second floor has a terrific exhibit of pictures, videos and memorabilia that commemorate the building’s first 50 years. You also can check out the arena web site.

During the arena’s closure, the Warm Puppy CafĂ© remained open.

News update: The renovation is complete: a little behind schedule, but well worth the wait! The arena opened for business on Nov. 9, 2019, and had a celebration on Nov. 15.  As you can see in the picture, something special was added to the ice.

Our friends are a permanent part of the ice!

May 17, 2019

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Apollo 10

On May 18, 1969 - fifty years ago - Apollo 10 launched on a mission to perform a "dress rehearsal" for the moon landing. Astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan would go the moon and do almost everything that Apollo 11 would eventually do... except for landing on the moon. While the previous Apollo mission had tested the lunar lander module in Earth orbit, Apollo 10 would test it in lunar orbit - coming within 50,000 feet of the moon's surface. The mission would also gather pictures and data that was used to refine the plans for Apollo 11.

What does this all have to do with Peanuts, you might ask? (Or, perhaps, since you're a fan, you already know.) On every Apollo mission, both the command module (the spacecraft that stayed in orbit) and the lunar lander had unique call signs; hence, for Apollo 11, we heard that "The Eagle has landed" because the lunar module was named "Eagle."

For Apollo 10, with the blessing of Charles Schulz, the calls signs for the command module and lunar lander were "Charlie Brown" and "Snoopy," respectively. This led to the two Peanuts characters appearing in some of the iconic photos from the mission - such as Thomas Stafford patting the nose of a plush Snoopy doll on his way to the launch; two figurines on one of the consoles of mission control; and Tom Stafford holding up a drawing of Snoopy during the first live color television broadcast from space.

To learn more about Apollo 10, visit this NASA page, this New York Times article, or view this historical documentary from NASA.

Apollo 10 was part of the relationship between NASA, Schulz, and the Peanuts characters that continues to this day. The Silver Snoopy is a prized NASA award recognizing "outstanding performance contributing to flight safety and mission success." And just last year, NASA and Peanuts Worldwide announced a new initiative to collaborate on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) educational activities, featuring the Peanuts characters.

You may remember a series of Peanuts comic strips that ran from March 10 to March 15, 1969, in which Snoopy becomes the first beagle to land on the moon (beating his namesake lunar module there by a couple of months).  Go here to read the entire sequence.

To celebrate Apollo 10 and their long history together, Snoopy, Jean Schulz, and other members of the Schulz family visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston back in April, an event which also featured an Peanuts-themed art installation by Kenny Scharf.  To learn more, see this Johnson Space Center blog page with photos; Facebook posts one and two; Jean Schulz's own blog entry; and this Space Center Houston blog post.

The Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California hosted an event on May 18, 2019 with presentations and representatives from NASA and the Space Station Museum, and has a small exhibit that will be on display until early 2020.

The Schulz Museum has also put together a traveling exhibit titled To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA that will be visiting several museums around the country - visit this page for the current schedule.

Finally, a short 9-minute "documentary of sorts" titled Peanuts In Space: Secrets of Apollo 10, created by Morgan Neville, Ron Howard's Imagine Documentaries, and DHX Media was released May 18 on the Apple TV app. The free-to-watch video is "an affectionate, lighthearted look at NASA and Charles Schulz's beloved Peanuts characters" and "seek to answer the question: was Snoopy a world famous astronaut?"  (As if we didn't already know the answer!)  Ron Howard and Jeff Goldblum star. See a teaser trailer here.

For now, to view it you'll need an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.  (Apple has announced plans to make their TV service available on other platforms by fall 2019; in fact, you may be able to get the Apple TV app for select Samsung televisions now.)  To find the video, open the Apple TV app and search for "Peanuts in Space".  If you can't find it, you may need to update your device's operating system to at least iOS 12 or tvOS 12.

Take this opportunity to marvel that 50 years ago men went to the moon and back - with a little help from Charlie Brown and Snoopy.