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First film fest was modest

Nearly two decades ago, Carolyn Stolman had an idea.

The Sonoma Valley resident, already an accomplished businesswoman, thought it would be fun to host a film festival in beautiful Sonoma. But unlike most people, she and her husband, Ed Stolman, had the connections, knowledge and wherewithal to make it happen.

“They were the big force behind it” in those early years, recalls Lee Jay Olness, who took an active role at the time and remains on the board of directors to this day – probably the only person who has helped organize the festival every year since its inception.

She and Carolyn Stolman knew each other through another group, Sister Cities of Sonoma. And as Olness tells it, when Stolman decided to get the ball rolling, she approached Olness, a travel agent, and said, “You have a travel agency and you probably know a lot of people. … My idea is to bring the movie makers in here and house them here.”

And through efforts like this the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, as it was then known, was born.

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