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Sunnyvale’s State of the City Address a Breath of Fresh Air

When most mayors do their annual State of the City Address they step up to a podium and talk to a room full of people, but in Sunnyvale the event has become one giant party.

“We’ve changed, and it’s changed over the last few years, but it’s become more of a festival type event to say the least,” said Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein. “We’ve always had the yearly speeches, the Mayor’s State of the City as well as our community award winners…We’ve had that for many years now, but it became let’s highlight the different organizations within the city.”

While the origins of the change date back several years and several mayors, each incoming mayor has put their own special stamp on the event.

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“Every mayor gets to put their stamp, their influence on the celebration,” said Klein. “I really like art and music and especially with the hate crime that happened earlier this year, celebrating the diversity of our community was really important.”

This year’s event included performances from a number of city organizations. There were lion dancers, African drummers, hula dancers, people playing Persian music, line dancing and Aztec musicians to name a few. Mayor Klein says the goal was to highlight the different nationalities and races within the City of Sunnyvale.

“Celebrating the inclusivity of our city is really important,” said Klein. “A lot of the non-profits that are doing good in our community are also represented, basically helping showcase the good they’re doing in our community.”

About 30 non-profits and city services set up tables at the event, including the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Historical Society and Sunnyvale Community Services.

But the part Mayor Klein is most proud of for this year’s State of the City event is an artistic contribution that will likely last beyond his time as mayor.

“What we’re doing this year is bringing in five muralists that are going to be doing live murals throughout the day. We have five muralists basically creating art,” said Klein.

The muralists were picked from a pool of applicants and given a theme to work off of. Then, on the day of the State of the City address, they showed up early and worked through the day until the artwork was complete.

“We had a couple options for theme, one was farm to industry to tech and the other theme was around immigration and a celebration of diversity, so I combined the two themes in my mural,” said Joey Rose, a local artist that was commissioned to create one of the murals.

“There [are] these wild parrots that live in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in Sunnyvale they’re really thriving,” said Rose. “I think they came over on some ship way back in the day and no one knows exactly where they came from or how they came here, but they’re actually thriving and not harming the local environment at all. I thought that was a good metaphor for immigration here in the Bay.”

Rose says all the parts of his mural have a special meaning to Sunnyvale. The piece of wheat in the bird’s mouth symbolizes the first wheat farms in Sunnyvale, while the peach symbolizes the orchards that came later. The peach pit, a microchip, symbolizes the seed of Silicon Valley.

Mayor Klein says the murals were all painted on canvas so they can travel throughout the city and later become a part of the CityLine development.

“We’re going to bring it out next month for Art and Humanities Month, we’ll bring it into City Hall for that,” said Klein. “We’ll be [placing them] throughout the city in the short-term and then when the new CityLine finishes…the CityLine developer is looking to place them in the new development in Phase Two.”

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