WALNUT CREEK -- Shortly after the first bank opened and a meat market set up shop on Main Street, Walnut Creek officially incorporated as a city on Oct. 21, 1914 -- with a population of 500. This was four years before the first sewer was installed and seven years before Main Street was paved.

And now almost 100 years later, with a population of more than 64,000, it's time to celebrate Walnut Creek -- sewer lines, paved roads and all.

While the city's official birthday may not be until October, the city and a dedicated group of volunteers have planned events, programs and activities for the entire coming year. The celebration has already begun in small ways, with banner flags -- purchased by sponsors and individuals bearing their names -- starting to appear on downtown poles this week. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein has purchased one of the flags, which have since sold out.

But the flags are just a symbol of the yearlong celebration of the city's milestone, which kicks off Jan. 24 with a fundraising party at the Lesher Center called "Flappers and Flasks, Roaring into the Centennial."

Signature family-friendly events include Centennial Heritage Day at Borges Ranch on Saturday, May 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Centennial Birthday Festival on Saturday, Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Shadelands Ranch Museum.

Mayor Kristina Lawson encourages residents to participate in the centennial events because it's a unique opportunity to celebrate Walnut Creek.

"Walnut Creek is a special place, and the past 100 years has evidenced a deep community commitment to creating opportunities to live, work and play for all our families," she said. "As we look forward to our future, we can celebrate the hard work that made Walnut Creek a proud place to call home today."

Special "Legacy Projects" that will permanently commemorate the city's 100th birthday are being planned, though few details have been released and money for them is still being raised.

One such project will likely be a centennial grove of trees planted at Heather Farm Park; another potential project is a special art piece commissioned for the centennial, said Gayle Vassar, community relations manager for the city. Most of the cost for the centennial celebrations, activities and events will be paid for through donations, though the city did kick in $10,000 as "seed money" to start the ball rolling, Vassar said.

Mechanics Bank is the official "Sponsor of the Century," and kicked in $50,000 for the yearlong celebration.

There are also smaller ways organizations and businesses are participating, doing things with a centennial twist. For example, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum will have "100 Ways to Support Wildlife: Petting Circle Day" on Feb. 1, and the focus of the Walnut Creek Library Foundation's student poetry contest which kicks off Jan. 13 is "100."

To get more information, learn about the history of Walnut Creek and participate in city trivia quizzes go to WalnutCreek100.com.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.

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