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Livin' Is Easy
Our guide to hot fun in the summertime
Summer keeps winking at us, taunting us with bawdy glances and lewd displays of flower-bringing heat. All of this between rainstorms, which dampen the giddiness of early-summer fever and ruin our garden strawberries. But just as we know--and we do know this, don't we?--that tomorrow will dawn, we also know that summer will come. And with it will be the array of festivals, blowouts, and plain ole good times that make the three-quarters-of-the-year mundaneness of school, work, and carpools worthwhile. With a flourish and plenty of sunscreen, we herewith offer our guide to the not-to-be-missed moments of the summer of '96.
Health and Harmony Festival
It's been 18 years of psychics, natural foods, spiritual organizations, and alternative health booths. And in those 18 years, these New Age phenomena have become almost, well, mainstream. No one would bat an eyelash were Newt Gingrich to swear by echinacea to combat colds--not that we think he would. But as times have changed, modern society has finally caught up with what people hundreds of years already knew: that we're healthier and happier living close to the earth and to those we love, trampling on no one and nothing. Accordingly, this year's fest--by far the county's most popular--is dedicated in theme and funding to honoring elders, community, and the planet, with donations earmarked for the Council on Aging and the Sonoma County Conservation Council.
But enough serious stuff--because H & H has always dedicated itself to mounting one heckuva party, and this year is no different, featuring music by the Jefferson Starship, Inka Inka, Pride & Joy, and Joanne Rand on June 8, with Narada Michael Walden, Maria Muldaur, and Hangman's Daughter blasting out on June 9. In addition to the mainstage acts, there will be drum circles, a Carnaval dance exhibition, a Middle Eastern souk, a hemp market, the Rainbow Center for kids, and lectures by Native American elder Wallace Black Elk (June 8) and fat-free guru Dr. John McDougall (June 9). And if all of this makes you dizzy with desire, chill out in cyberspace at the Internet Pavilion. Saturday-Sunday, June 8-9, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $4-$10; kids under 6, free. 575-9355.
Pride Without Borders
The Sonoma County Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade celebrates diversity with a freedom march up Mendocino Avenue ending at SRJC with a freedom bash featuring some of the best live acts in the county, including the outstanding Earl Thomas and his Blues Ambassadors, the Slammin' Babes, and the Sapphire Percussion Ensemble. Look for food, crafts, and children's activities, as well as the kind of community feeling that's created when community celebrates itself. Parade monitors are needed. Sunday, June 9. Parade begins at 11 a.m.; festival at noon. Free. 545-0365.
Vintage Race Car Festival
The Valley of the Moon Boys and Girls Club and the Sonoma Valley Visitors' Bureau get some much-needed funding while you get to nosh and sip and slurp and stare as gourmet vittles and vintage cars become the stars at this annual benefit event. Participating wineries include Gundlach-Bundschu, Glen Ellen, Ravenswood, and Buena Vista. Saturday, June 8. at the Sebastiani Vineyards, 389 Fourth St. E., Sonoma. $25-$35. For complete details, call 938-8544.
Sonoma is planning to mount the oso grande of all state sesquicentennials, beginning on June 13 and extending--flag raisings, barbecues, ox roasts, receptions, and an original opera--well into July. Commemorating 150 years since the California republic gained independence, Sonoma will wave the flag high over the plaza, fete those individuals who were around to celebrate the centennial, and just generally make every weekend a dizzying round of parties, historical re-enactments, and grilled food. Kicking all of this off will be the June 13 raising of the Bear Flag at 11 a.m., with a grand procession from Broadway up to the Plaza, a barbecue, live music, and much hubbub. Gov. Pete Wilson has been invited and will attend if he's able to take time off from his busy schedule of pinching welfare mothers and punishing poor kids. A reception for the governor is slated from 1 to 3 p.m. and costs $30 to attend. Other events are free or almost so. For a complete calendar and information, call 938-3681.
Cotati Jazz Festival
Now well into its 16th year, the Cotati Jazz Festival is an institution all unto itself, featuring hot live music in various venues spread thickly throughout the town. The theme this year honors women in music, with a great lineup of artists putting their lips together to blow. Because female contributions to jazz are expanding far beyond the traditional image of the gardenia-pinned diva singing about her man, women are found playing the field now, from tickling the ivories to swinging the sax. Event organizer Jud Snyder last dedicated his fest to women some 8 to 10 years ago, but saying that "women are playing such an prominent role these days," he knew that it was time to do it again. Performers include Madeline Eastman, guitarist Joyce Cooling, Madeline Duran performing with Eddie Duran's group, and instrumentalist Dottie Dodgion, as well as percussionist Benny Barth and drummer Bud Spangler. SSU musical director Mel Graves adds to the mix. June 15-16, 1 to 6 p.m. at various venues, headquartered at La Plaza Park, downtown Cotati. $12 one day; $20 both. Patrons receive badges enabling them to move freely from place to place. 523-8378.
Stumptown Daze Parade and Rodeo
Thirty years of rodeos, big breakfasts and barbecues, and wacky western parades haven't dimmed the dust-and-leather gleam of this California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association-sanctioned (whew) Father's Day weekend event, June 15-16. The parade wends its way up Guerneville's main street on Saturday at 11 a.m., with the rodeo commencing each day at 2 p.m. And plan to break your fast from 7 a.m. both morns. The rodeo grounds are located north of Main Street, on Armstrong Woods Road. $4-$9 for the rodeo; parade free; food separate; go figure. 869-1959.
Fort Ross VFD Music Festival
Sure, there's glamour in saving children from burning buildings, but we hear that it's a mite bit dangerous. A better way to glamour up yourself is to be a Fort Ross VFD member and to earn new hoses through the beneficence of hundreds of grateful folks who want to live in dance-heaven while they raise your funds. And so it is with the Fort Ross music fest, a real community celebration with special emphasis on kids, lots of food and drink, and great music from the likes of the African Rhythm Messengers, the Jazz Iguanas, and Family Soul. Having a good time for a good cause never felt so, well, good. Saturday, June 22, from noon to 11 p.m. Fort Ross Road, west of Cazadero; follow the signs and bumpers. Carpooling is encouraged. $15-$20; under 12 and over 65, free. 847-3730 or 847-3458.
Martin Luther King Festival
Now in its 26th year, this celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bears as its theme this year's motto: "Knowledge Is Power." With entertainment for the whole family, this informative and fun community event features a basketball tournament, music, and opening and closing ceremonies giving pause to celebrants in remembrance of times past and in contemplation of the future. Sponsored by the Redwood Empire Elks Club. Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 167 Hendly St., Santa Rosa. For details, call 576-1206 or 576-7443.
Duncans Mills Festival of the Arts
Outgrowing its britches in Jenner, this arts festival shakes out anew in the bustling metropolis of Duncans Mills this year, featuring the traditional juried fine-art show and terrific food and music, just as it has for the last 12 years--but now with more parking. Saturday features the jazz of Convergence, followed by the beebop of Indigo Swing. Sunday finds the Sundogs doing their Cajun thang, and Planet Blues and the African Rhythm Messengers finishing the blast off. Downtown Duncans Mills, off Hwy. 116. June 22-23. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $2; benefits West County Community Services. 824-8404.
Straddling the county border, this fair is neither as big nor as glitzy as its larger countified sisters, and we like it that way. Visiting the Sonoma-Marin Fair doesn't exhaust you. You can leave and come back; you're not overwhelmed by foot massagers and the hot gusts from the portable griddle-fry kitchens. Sure, they're there--it wouldn't be a fair without them--but there's also a lot of small-town charm among the classic rock and country acts, the animal stalls, and the cotton candy. This year's theme is "This One's for Ewe!," with a greater-than-ever emphasis on 4-H showings, as well as music by those disco denizens the Village People (June 21) and the soul sounds of the Drifters (June 22). A new addition this year is the talent show, starring you and yours singing and dancing your way to prizes. Of course, there'll be auto racing and destruction derbies--this ain't no fooling around. June 19 is Kids' Day, with free admission for those under 12. Wednesday-Sunday, June 19-23, noon to midnight. Washington Street, just west of Hwy. 101, Petaluma. $3-$6.50. 763-0931.
Santa Rosa Symphony Summer Music Festivals
The Santa Rosa Symphony is taking it to the streets again this summer, playing its heart out in unusual and casual settings, beginning on June 23 with a pops concert that features Broadway soprano Lisa Vroman. Striding the stage in San Francisco as the Phantom's tragic love Christine, Vroman will perform tunes from other musicals at this lakeside concert at SSU. Other highlights include two concerts at the Luther Burbank Center, featuring conductor Jeffrey Kahane on the piano. Joining Kahane on Aug. 11 will be pianist Jon Kimura Parker. The fest winds up with concerts at Santa Rosa's Donald Mansion on Aug. 23-25, moving to the Schlumberger Benchland estate and the Sonoma Mission on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. For complete details, call 54-MUSIC.
Russian River Blues Festival
The folks that have made Johnson's Beach jump with jazz for the last 20 years are at last executing the very good idea of mounting a blues extravaganza on the very same sand. With the future looking bright, this is the "First Annual" festival, its originators cocksure that fans will return for more. And why not? This year's lineup features such stellar acts as Etta James, Elvin Bishop, and Ronnie Earl on June 29, with Bobby Blue Bland, Junior Wells, and Otis Clay singing the Delta muddy on the 30th. The setup is the same as the jazz fest's, so remember hot- and cold-weather clothes, extra sunblock, coolers, magazines, the Sunday paper, cold beer, river floaties, and low-slung chairs. But don't worry, with a full crafts fair and many food booths, there's just about nothing that you can't buy on-site. Hey, no pets, taping devices, or glass, please. Saturday-Sunday, June 29-30, from 10 a.m. In advance, $27 per day or $49 for both days; at the gate, $30 or $55. 869-3940.
Kenwood Pillow Fights
The best thing about the Fourth of July (other than the fact that you don't have to give presents) is that it's one of the only days of the year when you can drink longnecks while eating chocolate cake in your bathing suit. We'll take two of those, please. And the people in Kenwood know what goes best with beer and cake: pillows. More than 10,000 people converge on this tiny town on the nation's birthday to watch their fellow citizens stoutly straddle a metal pole mounted over a mud pit as they fight to the filth with feather pillows. Other highlights include a foot race, chili cook-off, and parade. July 4, natch. For details, call 833-2440.
Rodney Strong-Piper Sonoma Summer Concerts
If you missed the Memorial Day opening concert of this series with the Rippingtons and Carlos Reyes, don't despair, because this is one long summer. Look for Tuck & Patti to appear on July 6 with jazz pianist Ricardo Scales opening. July 20 brings jazz saxman Boney James, Avenue Blue, and Ann Dyer and the No Good Time Fairies to the vineyards. In August, look for jazz saxophonist Richard Elliot and guitarist Craig Chaquico on the 3rd, while the 10th sees our own Michael Bolivar teamed up with renowned Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez. Labor Day finishes the series off with a cymbal-ic boom, with the Bobby Hutcherson Quartet, pianist Cedar Walton's trio, and the Charlie Byrd Trio. 11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg. Concerts are $25 each or $125 for the whole shebang. 433-0919.
Monte Rio Water Carnival
With all kinds of goofy activities like the light projections of the Statue of Liberty beamed from the Monte Rio bridge onto a 60-foot waterfall, and a nighttime torch-lit canoe parade, this event is all wet--and couldn't be more fun. In addition to the dark-light activities, the beach comes alive by day with a water carnival featuring games and balls, canoe races, and firefighters encouraging fires (so they can cook your meat, sillies). July 7-8, from 10 a.m. Monte Rio Public Beach, off Hwy. 116. Free. 865-1533.
The Sonoma County Museum returns to more genteel days when it hosts a fundraising summer tea out in the cool of the museum's portico. This new event commences promptly at 4 p.m., offering a high tea you might have to take your gloves off to eat, and celebrates in part the museum's exhibit of results of Elwin Millerick's woodworking skills. July 14. 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. For details, call 579-1500.
Sonoma Salute to the Arts
Two days of wine, sun, art, food, and song can't be all bad, which is why the Sonoma Salute to the Arts is happily into its 11th year. Food and wine by local vintners will be in abundance, as will original art. What we like most about this festival, however, is that they let writers out of their little darkened rooms into the bright sunlight by inviting local authors to appear. Yep--they're easy to spot, pale and blinking wildly--but they're happy to sign their works and have some actual conversations. This year's event kicks off with a "Film Noir" black-and-white dinner at the Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood on July 19, and regular denim-clad folks can mix and mingle on July 20-21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on the Plaza in Sonoma. Daytime events are free; Noir is $50-$75. 938-1133.
Sonoma County Fair
The county fair has a funny effect on people: ordinary, upstanding citizens find themselves scarfing food that's been dyed pink or red, oohing over the mysteries of sheep testicles, and riding around in circles til they're woozy. But that's the fair, it just does something to you. In addition to the animals, carnival rides, and other fair staples, highlights this year include a Science Olympiad and athletic events in honor of the 1996 Olympic Games, as well as a "Rollin' on the River" theme for the annual flower show. Musical acts include Doug Supernaw (July 23), Lou Rawls (July 26), an oldies show with the Shirelles (July 31), Queen Ida and her Bon Temps Zydeco Band (Aug. 2), the popular blues fest (Aug. 3), and Ezequiel Peña (Aug. 4). The PRCA Rodeo bucks about July 26-27, and a special Mexican fiesta is planned for July 28. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. July 23-Aug. 5, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. $2-$5. 545-4200.
Petaluma Summer Music Fest
Light opera, world music, candlelight concerts, and the strains of live-performed music filling the grand old rooms of private Victorian homes--and we always advise an ersatz trip to the restrooms to peek around a bit--make up the diverse offerings of this annual festival produced by the Cinnabar Theater. It all begins on Aug. 2 and runs through the month, with highlights such as a comic opera called "Public Defender," a Tango Tea, the Arlequin Quartet, and the new wave of Ancient Future. Details are still being settled and performers confirmed for this wonderfully diverse event. For details, give 'em a week or two, then call 763-8920.
The Sonoma County Museum raises glasses cheerily with its 11th annual salute to suds. Featuring potables from 35 microbreweries and swank pub grub to accompany, this event raised more than $20,000 last year. That'd buy a lot of Budweiser, eh? Brew and food tastings as usual; all that's changed this year is the time, which is from the regulation hours of 5:05 to 8:08 p.m. on Aug. 16. 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. $20-$25. 579-1500.
River Appreciation Festival
Let the Russian River know that you love it when you help benefit the Friends of the Russian River and the Sonoma County Conservation Council in tending it even better. Last year's keynote speaker, David Brower, became ill at the last moment and had to cancel, and event organizers are still settling on a keynote speaker for this year. Someone healthy, we hope, because there's a lot to do, from major eats--cooked by Hop Kiln owner Marty Griffin and his family--to river hikes to hobnobbing. Aug. 17, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Hop Kiln Winery, 6050 Westside Road, Healdsburg. $25-$30. 576-1791.
Petaluma River Festival
Rolling on the river has been lots more fun since downtown Petaluma merchants realized that hanging out by the river is, like, swell. The River Festival has known that for 11 years, and this year there will be races in all manner of river-bound vehicles, as well as good food, music, and an entire village dedicated to the little guys in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center on Washington Street. Aug. 17, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Petaluma River Turning Basin, Washington Street at Water Street. $3; children free. 762-5331.
Santa Rosa DixieJazz Festival
If you like your jazz straight up, neat, and with no fusionlike frills, male perms, or the words soft or lite, you'll love the annual DixieJazz Fest. Produced by the TRADJASS folks who bring you traditional Dixieland bands and jams each month, this is the growly ole momma of their year, featuring more than 12 bands, jams of all kinds, and a "pianorama." Aug. 23-25. Red Lion Inn, 1 Red Lion Drive, Rohnert Park. $15 Friday and Sunday; $25 Saturday; $50 for all. 539-3494.
Cotati Accordion Fest
Look, it's irresistible, and we're not even going to begin to resist: Use an accordion, go to Cotati. The bumper stickers say it; we can do no better. And get thee to Cotati this year as event organizers have enlarged the polka floor--thus enlarging the polka party (another irresistible phrase). Heck, just about everything about accordions is irresistible, unless you grew up with Uncle Moe and his valiant attempts to play, cigar ash dropping onto his sluggish fingers. This year's lineup includes polka guru Steve Balich, as well as Golden Bough, Sourdough Slim, Jim Boggio and his Swamp Dogs, Polkacide, Motodude Zydeco, the Zydeco Flames, and the Gospel Accordion to Women. Accordion puns, you can't beat Œem. There will also be workshops and the ever-popular Lady of Spain-a-Ring. Aug. 24-25, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. La Plaza Park, downtown Cotati. $7-$12; kids under 12, free. Sorry, there aren't accordion discounts for those with accordions. 664-0444.
Johnny Otis Red Beans and Rice
Mr. Otis and band will once again preside over this fest devoted to good times and the adoration of that most lowly protein staple, red beans and rice. Having begun the fest in Los Angeles, Otis brought the idea with him when he packed his vibes and moved to Sebastopol, and we are mighty glad he did. All kinds of special guests are bound to bound on the stage, and Johnny hates to end a show without one rendition of "Hand Jive." Aug. 31, from noon. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. For complete details, call 546-3600.
Gravenstein Apple Fair
Pommes neats might (just maybe) be the French translation for this two-day paean to the apple. It's also the best place in the county to buy tie-dyed jockey shorts, but you may not need to know that. In any case, this sweetest little fair offers live music, kids' stuff, animal demonstrations, swell crafts, and a bit o' the food and drink. Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol. For complete details, call 996-2154.
Old Adobe Fiesta
If you haven't been to Sonoma yet to celebrate the sesquicentennial, Petaluma offers you this chance to go back in time to the rugged 1840s, when men were men and grew their beards to enormous proportions (and won prizes in the Whiskerino contest), MTV hadn't even been digitized, and microwaves were always on the fritz because there were no electrical outlets. Discover life as General Vallejo and his community lived it. 3325 Adobe Road, Petaluma. $2; children under 12 free. Call 762-4871 for details.
Russian River Jazz Fest
Now in it's 20th year, the Jazz Fest just doesn't get old. What could age a beautiful day in the sun with friends and family, floating in those big black inner tubes, diving into the cooler, sloshing microbrews all over your stomach, doing the crossword with a tapping foot, and swooping through the great crafts area? They even have portable sinks near the commodes! After 20 years, these people are organized. So get yourself organized and buy some tickets to this uniquely Sonoma County event. This year's lineup includes Randy Crawford, George Howard, and the Yellowjackets on Sept. 7, with Lee Ritenour, Tower of Power, and John Handy commanding the stage on Sept. 8. This is truly one of the highlights of summer. Johnson's Beach, Guerneville. $28, single; $50, both days (until June 16; prices rise after). For complete details, call 869-3940.
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From the May 30-June 5, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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© 1996 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.