The heat has abated, and evenings are cool. Late September in Sonoma is the quintessence of fall. Schoolkids are in rhythm, the cordwood is restocked, and California’s oldest annual festival is on deck for the weekend.
The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, in its 120th year, is a beloved three-day palooza paying homage to bounty: both the abundance of fruit clustering on the hillsides and the generosity of spirit that defines the town.
A medley of miscellany is planned for the weekend, with activities for every appetite and style.
On Friday, the festival kicks off with a gala, where costumed revelers will gather at Sonoma Barracks for an evening of food, wine and song. More than 50 wineries will be pouring to compliment food tastings from distinguished restaurants, while Notorious — the cover band which once rocked the San Francisco Giants World Series Party — lays down a beat. Revelers are instructed to come dressed as their “favorite decade,” a wide open directive if ever there was. Expect prospectors, flappers, mad men, and hippies, though prohibitionists will likely prefer to stay home.
Saturday’s schedule begins with the “blessing of the grapes,” a traditional baptismal of the festival’s purpose. Immediately following are the kid, family and corporate grape stomps, a raucously physical competition that allows participants a pass on their elliptical workout. All day a variety of live music soars from two stages, while artisans exhibit wares and nonprofits fundraise with games and activities. At 7 p.m., a merry band of Bear Flag re-enactors will stage their annual coup, followed at dusk by the “Get Your Glow on Parade.”
If still upright by Sunday morning, revelers can do penance with an 8 a.m. footrace. 5K and 12K runs – staged by Destination Races for the first time this year — supplies athletic gravitas while simultaneously clarifying participants’ livers for a third day of partying.
A second round of grape stomping commences at 11 a.m., and four firefighting brigades compete to fill an empty keg with water at 2 p.m. Throughout the day, live bands again play from two stages.
“The Vintage Festival is a celebration of the Valley’s wine, food, culture and heritage,” said Maria Toimil, festival president. “Volunteers meet throughout the year to plan and implement this historical event. When the last grape is stomped, the profits are all donated back to those organizations that helped make it a great success. It’s a win-win celebration!”
With 100 percent of the festival’s proceeds donated to local charities, VOMVF benefits nonprofits of various types.
It’s a long weekend of indulgence serving a serious mission: to recognize the astounding good fortune of living the sweet life in Sonoma, and to gather collectively and give thanks.
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Vintage Festival Goes to the Races
Two footraces are again part of the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, in lengths of both 5 and 12 kilometers. Both races start at 8 a.m. and finish back at the starting line on Spain St. at Sonoma Plaza.
The 5K course takes runners out and back to Ravenswood Winery while the 12K course continues out Lovall Valley Rd. to Thornsberry Rd., then down through Gundlach Bundschu Winery, before eventually returning to the plaza.
Registration and race Information can be found at the Destinations Races table in the Plaza on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the Vintage Festival. Late registration will be available prior to the start of the race on Sunday at the Plaza, starting at 7 a.m.
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