Move to the Beat Drumming, dancing, food and fun are all part of the Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival in Santa Rosa.
Rain or shine, it's the season to step out and get fresh North Bay. From hiking challenges to community arts festivals, here's a backpack full of family-friendly outdoor activities to partake in this weekend.
Alaska Native Day: Though it was officially established by the Russian American Company, Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast was built by many diverse people, including Alaska native sea hunters from many Alaskan tribes originating on Kodiak Island and eventually the Aleutian Islands and Alaskan Peninsula.
This year, that heritage is honored in the sixth annual Alaska Native Day at Fort Ross State Historic Park. In addition to traditional activities like the annual John Sperry memorial qayag (sealskin) kayak boat race and the walk to the nearby cemetery for remembrance and blessing, this year's festival boasts an international lineup of talent with the Anchorage Unangax Dancers sharing their traditional dancing from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, vocalist Saina Singer, of the Sakha Republic, performing her songs and sharing Siberian native history and Haida and Welsh artist Rachel Langford leading a metal etching project. Kids' arts and crafts activities, history and ecology exhibits and more celebrate Alaskan culture on Saturday, May 18, at 19005 Hwy 1, Jenner. 10am. Free admission; $8 per car parking. Fortross.org.
Napa Open Space District Spring Trail Challenge: Aside from touring vineyards and tasting rooms, Napa County is a haven for those who love to hike, bike or ride horses in wide open spaces, and the Napa Open Space District is the best place to find out when and where to get outdoors. Each spring, the district offers a trail challenge that invites adventurous participants to take on any five of 11 trails throughout the county. Each completed trail earns points, and bonus points are awarded for additional park-related activities, such as this weekend's Flower Hike at Moore Creek Park. The hike features views of unique and interesting flora, including Monkeyflower, Baby Blue Eyes, Canyon Larkspur and other native plants, while covering the basics of flower identification. Once on the hike, be sure to take photos and add the right captions when uploading to social media to enter to win prizes like a Tahoe getaway, complimentary winetasting at Olabasi, bike tune-up from Calistoga bike shop and more. The trail challenge continues until June 21 and the Flower Hike commences on Saturday, May 18, at 2607 Chiles Pope Valley Rd., St. Helena. 10am. napaoutdoors.org.
Skaggs Island Bike Ride: Once a top-secret U.S. Navy installation located between Novato and Vallejo on Highway 37, Skaggs Island used to be thriving tidal marsh that's now returning to its former glory with the combined efforts of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Sonoma Land Trust. While the entire island is now part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it's still often off-limits to the general public, though this weekend presents a rare opportunity to tour the 3,300-acre site during the Skaggs Island Bike Ride. Adults and children are invited, and participants can walk the route as well, which comprises a seven-mile loop and optional offshoot trails. You might see wildlife like deer, foxes, coyotes and birds of prey, and you'll definitely enjoy complimentary ice cream from Straus Family Creamery and chocolate milk from Clover (while supplies last). Registration is required for the Saturday, May 18 ride at Skaggs Island Road and Highway 37, Sonoma. 10am. Free. fws.gov/refuge/san_pablo_bay.
Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival: Started in 2009 by Sonoma County artist Mario Uribe, whose art and career has long celebrated a love for Japanese arts and culture, Sonoma County Matsuri (the word translates into festival) is a nonprofit educational arts organization dedicated to sharing and promoting Japanese culture through educating intercultural understanding at events like the annual Matsuri! Japanese Arts Festival. The event turns 10 this weekend and returns to Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa.
At first, the festival was little more than a tea ceremony, but as Sonoma Matsuri expanded, so did its vision. Now the festival has become one of the signature cultural events in the North Bay with taiko drumming, calligraphy, martial arts, food, exhibitors and more. Festival-goers are invited to join in the fun and try their hand at drumming, mochitsuki (the pounding of sweet rice into cakes), and learning dance steps on the lawn. In addition to the daylong festival, this year's events include a Saturday night of music featuring the shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute), on May 18, at the Church of the One Tree (492, Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa. 7pm. $20). The festival commences on Sunday, May 19, at 227 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa. 11am. Free admission. sonomamatsuri.com.