Travel afar, tell people where you live and invariably they will respond with some variation of, "Oh, you live in wine country. Lucky you."
We are defined to much of the world by our grapes, our wine and the ambience of a place with stunning scenery, delectable dining and wonderful weather. Well and good.
But that's not us.
The real us was gathered, hundreds strong, in the Sebastiani Theatre Saturday morning to watch our children - both young and grown - entertain us, amuse us, thrill us, enchant us and amaze us in the annual Performing Arts Camp extravaganza produced by the inexhaustible Diana Rhoten, with help from husband, Roger, and a multi-generational cast of counselors, former counselors, volunteers and parents sucked into that creative vortex by the gravitational force of magical energy spinning through the theater.
There was dancing and tumbling and dramatic interpretation. There was comedy and magic and walking on stilts. There was singing and juggling and production routines worthy of Broadway. There were little kids on a big stage doing things they'd never dreamed possible two weeks before.
To witness that show, and the waves of love that rolled over the footlights, over the audience and into the lobby, was to understand in an instant who we are, what we're about and why Sonoma is a very special place that, really, has very little to do with wine.
What we witnessed was community. It was amazing. It was real. It was us.
And the City Party
And now, even more of us are about to experience a lot more community this afternoon as the annual City Party - presented free by the Sonoma Community Center and sponsored for the first time by member-owned Redwood Credit Union - unfolds across the Plaza.
The party is another only-in-Sonoma event, during which a few thousand of us and our best friends cram cheek-to-jowl across the Plaza lawn, and at which some citizens have in the past moved what appeared to be the complete contents of their living rooms - sofas included - into the Plaza. That charming tradition is no more. The city public works folks want to remind you that furniture is no longer allowed for the sake of the lawns, which otherwise take a terrible beating.
So bring a blanket, some lawn chairs and a picnic basket, but leave the Barcaloungers, the umbrellas, the barbecues and portable bars at home. And for those seeking to reserve some private space, remember that, other than in the sponsor/VIP area, no part of the Plaza can be roped off.
Entertainment for the evening will be provided by Crossfire, who slashed their regular fee to play in front of family and friends and will perform on Glen Mak's donated flatbed trailer.
Local chef Simone Cabaud will donate her catering, Larson Family Winery is donating wine and the Olde Sonoma Public House is contributing the beer, which will be sold by members of the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley, who will also provide volunteer labor throughout the event.
Proceeds from beer and wine sales will go toward the cost of producing the party, which runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and should be, even without the sofas, one hell of a good time.