By David L. Beck
Mercury News

A celebration just wouldn’t be a celebration without a protest. Not in Santa Cruz, at any rate.

This weekend, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the foundation stone of California’s state park system, completes a 100-day celebration of its 100th year. There will be two days of music, speeches and theater. Bluegrass bands will play. Dancers will dance. Tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill will speak.

And a group of human-sized Hobbits will protest their current lack of welcome in the park, the result of a long-running squabble that boils down to fun vs. rules. These Hobbits arose in 1978 not from Middle Earth but from San Jose State University.

What began as a birthday party at Big Basin — it was the birthday boy who named the party after J.R.R. Tolkien’s forest-dwellers — has evolved into an annual gathering. “Just regular folks,” said Hobbit Party organizer Gregor Nelson. “We’re not rabid Tolkienistas,” although he admits they were back in ’78. Nelson added, “It really just became a way for people who are far-flung and having busy lives and families and careers and all that stuff” to know that there’s a time and a place where they can still get together. The parties continued without interruption for more than 20 years, attracting in excess of 80 people, children included, each fall. But in 2001, their run at Big Basin ended.

Liz Burko, supervising ranger, described a series of permit violations involving primarily noise, trash and excessive numbers of cars and people that culminated in her order that they take their Hobbit Party elsewhere. The Hobbits will still have their party — later this month in Mendocino — but some of them also will be at Big Basin today.

“We’ll have signs,” said Janet Swanson of Sunnyvale. “We’ll play our whoopees,” which she describes as “little plastic things” like party favors. Nelson thinks “protest” is too harsh a term. “We might go and make a little noise,” he said.

“They’re welcome to purchase tickets,” Burko said.

“Anybody is. This is a celebration for us, and we want to celebrate it with the public.”