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Thanks to Bob Bowen, there’s no place like Davis

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From page A1 | August 27, 2013 | 2 Comments

Bob Bowen rides a penny farthing during Picnic Day. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

Join the fun

What: Davis High School Hall of Fame induction

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, awards at 7 p.m.

Where: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis

Tickets: $65 each, tables of 10 for a $1,000 sponsorship

Info: www.dhsblueandwhite.org

* Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories profiling the 2013 inductees to the Davis High School Hall of Fame.

Follow the bike lane downtown. Follow the bike lane downtown. Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the bike lane downtown … until it ends, in front of the Hunt-Boyer Mansion.

Inside, shut away, back behind a curtain of Davis memorabilia, Bob Bowen is likely conjuring up his next trick, his next local extravaganza: perhaps planning the city’s 100th birthday party, just over the rainbow in 2017, perhaps something else.

Knowing Bowen, the city’s public relations manager and the individual who’s responsible for at least part of every memorable city-run event since the early 1970s, whatever it is, it will be a wicked time.

“If I look back on every event in the city over at least the past decade, more like the past three decades, Bob has had a hand in so many of the things that make up what we consider to be the fabric of the community and the character of the overall community,” said Kelly Stachowicz, the city’s deputy city manager.

“It’s hard to imagine what this community would be like without somebody like Bob.”

Since the 1970s, Bowen in various positions at city hall has dazzled Davis with his knack for transforming the common black-and-white ribbon-cutting ceremony into a (Techni)colorful — and often themed — spectacle.

If Davis only had a winter-time tradition? Bowen was the one who dreamed up and gave the city its popular “The Davis Children’s Nutcracker” in 1977.

If the high school only could host its own commencement ceremony? Bowen in 2011 essentially turned Davis High graduation into a rock concert by moving it to the football field and ordering in a jumbotron to magnify the faces of all the grads.

If the community only could set off fireworks near the highway in the middle of the day to commemorate the opening of the Pole Line Road Overcrossing even though California Highway Patrol said ‘no’ at first? Leave it up to Bowen.

According to those who know him, any group that needs — really — anything for any type of production or event they’d like to host in town can appear before Bowen and he’ll do everything in his power to accommodate them.

He could probably even get a heart, or a brain, if asked.

“Davis wouldn’t be Davis without him,” said wife, Kate Bowen. “From the Nutcracker, to having mascots … Rainbow Summer (summer camp), which he started. All of those things that are very unique are things that he has brought to Davis. He just puts tremendous amounts of energy into things.”

Don’t forget about attracting a stage of the Amgen Bicycle Tour of California to town and helping create events like Celebrate Davis!, Cyclebration and the Downtown Davis Holiday Open House, oh my! The long-time Davisite also helped bring the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame to the city and helped the city renovate the Varsity Theater, 616 Second St., downtown into a community theater.

Bowen was there, and Bowen was there and Bowen was there.

It’s for these gifts Bowen has granted the community that he will be inducted in the Blue & White Foundation Davis High School Hall of Fame next month as an alumnus at large.

The foundation has recognized Bowen, class of 1970 — along with four other inductees — for founding or supporting “a multitude of projects and programs unique to Davis and the public schools.”

From gathering would-be witches — only the good ones — downtown, erecting an inflatable movie screen and showing a Harry Potter flick before the midnight release of one of the next book installments; to asking council members to arrive to a city celebration perched on the cow-catcher of a freight train as it steams into Davis, Bowen has brought all the trappings of a movie set to the many events he’s spearheaded over the years.

“Luckily I’ve been able to use the whole community as a venue over the years,” Bowen said.

Bowen landed in Davis in 1968, just before entering his junior year at Davis High School. By spring semester the following year, though he wasn’t in Hollywood anymore — where he was born — he was elected DHS Student Body President.

During his senior year, the city’s recreation department recruited Bowen to help run an after-school teen program at the high school. Something must have clicked then, as only a few years later he would begin a 37-year (and counting, according to a large red-sanded hourglass) career with the city.

Serving in recreation-focused positions such as program coordinator, community services supervisor and now the public relations manager, Bowen is now the longest-serving employee with city.

It’s not even worth mentioning the pink slip from the city that put him out of work a few weeks when Prop. 13 passed in 1978.

The truth is, Bowen isn’t a wizard. In fact, he’s really not even too similar to that wizard: a recluse, hiding from the world behind his emerald walls and curtains.

Bowen, in real life, is ever-present in Davis, with a wife and four children — all of whom, coincidentally enough, graduated from DHS. He’s a staple at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day parade — riding through the streets on a custom-built, high-wheel bike. He even leads the march through downtown that culminates the city’s yearly Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.

But were this a production in Davis, like the many Bowen has showcased in his almost 40 years of public service, he’d play the part to a T. Certainly, one could expect to see a flying monkey or two. He probably knows a guy.

“Let’s put on a show,” Bowen would say, and did say this week. “Let’s get people to come back, let’s get people to get enthusiastic, let’s get people to come out and participate in something they wouldn’t otherwise. Let’s do something that’s an event that you’ll never forget.”

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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Discussion | 2 comments

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  • August 27, 2013 - 3:37 pm

    I'm another in a long list of Bob Bowen fans! Go, BOB! and thanks for the piece, Tom. Hazel Kagan Davis 1972 - 1996

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Laurie HammondAugust 27, 2013 - 10:18 pm

    Great article! I knew Bob in the ‘70’s. All of the girls in dance class wanted to be his partner, floating in the arms of this magical, handsome, and genuinely good, guy. Thanks for giving him the commendation he deserves!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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