It’s the last weekend in September, which means it’s Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival time. California’s second longest-running festival marks its 116th year in Sonoma with a community celebration of the harvest season this weekend.
“We’re always celebrating the history,” said Maria Toimil, president of the all-volunteer Vintage Festival board, who added that they keep the festival fresh by adding or enhancing the festival’s beloved events.
One example was last year’s switch to a nighttime parade with a “Get Your Glow On” theme to light up the dark.
The parade will again take place on Saturday evening, but will be preceded by a reenactment of the famed Bear Flag Revolt at 7:15 p.m.
“We wanted to make the night more of an event,” Toimil said. “We do have more (parade) entries this year. We’re encouraging people to have more lights and really kick it up a notch.”
The parade, which begins at 8 p.m., will head down First Street East, cross the Plaza at Spain Street and then continue up First Street West, all of which will be closed to cars for the evening. Parking will not be available on Spain Street when the parade takes over the north side of the Plaza on Saturday.
The festival fun officially starts today, Friday, Sept. 27, with the opening night Gala. The Barracks will host a slew of wine and food purveyors, who offer tastes and sips throughout the night. The 1980s cover band Tainted Love will be making music to get the crowd dancing. Tickets are $85 in advance, or $100 at the door.
“We’ve gone electronic this year and we’re really encouraging people to buy their tickets online,” Toimil said.
The Plaza is the site of Saturday and Sunday’s traditional festival, which is free to attend. Saturday morning launches at 10 a.m. with the Blessing of the Grapes, a ceremony that seeks to ensure a bountiful harvest. From there, prepare to get wet when the Valley’s various fire departments go hose-to-hose in the annual water fight at 11 a.m. Following that, the daylong festivities include live music (see the lineup in James Marshall Berry’s music column), a beer garden, wine tasting tent and an art fair.
“One thing I’m super excited about this year is that we’ve combined the wine tent and art fair, so we’re creating a ‘sip and shop’ experience,” Toimil said.
As always, the festival invites nonprofits and community groups to host their own booths on the Plaza. From selling hamburgers and hot dogs to the salami toss and fishing games, each booth doubles as a fundraiser.
This year, the Sonoma Valley Soroptimists stepped up to create a kids corner, with activities for toddlers to teens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day in the northeast quadrant of the Plaza. Volunteers are needed to help in the kids corner – those available can call Tami Cotter at 287-3908.
The popular Grape Stomp competitions will also take place both days, and stompers are encouraged to sign up online. Returning on Sunday at noon will be the Corporate Grape Stomp, during which businesses donate $250 each to participate and form two-member teams to see who can crush grapes the quickest using only their feet.