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Easy Livin'

Denis Leary
Tag Artist: Comedian and actor Denis Leary comes to the LBC on Aug. 28. Tickets are $19.50. Call 546-3600 for details.

Our guide to hot fun in the summertime

By Gretchen Giles and Paula Harris

THE HILLS ARE SURPRISED into yellowing early this year, late-spring heat painting the county with gold grass, creating deep pools of cool under the oaks. The deliciousness of the night air on bare arms, the good dark smell of wet dirt, and the spurt of sunflowers all mean that the season of festivals and fun is upon us. From Memorial Day to Labor Day--music, vittles, fermented libations, and those endless nights in which only the sky is needed for a blanket. It's payback time for winter.


June

Russian River Blues Festival
THIS NEW TRADITION is now happily and firmly in place, making summer twice as great as it was when we only had the Blues Fest's older cousin--the Russian River Jazz Festival--to look forward to each year. Run by the same well-organized folks who bring us the jazz fest (stand-alone sinks for post-porta-potty hand washing are next to godliness), the Blues Festival brings the legendary Little Milton, Taj Mahal, Joe Louis Walker, and Keb'Mo' in on Saturday for an absolutely killer day of blues styles. Sunday features Grammy winner Dr. John headlining with his swampy New Orleans R&B, with guitarist Lowell Fulson, zydeco maestro C. J. Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band, Gen-X blues phenom Preacher Boy, and mighty Oakland songstress Lady Bianca cutting the heat on the beach as the afternoon progresses. Gates open at 10 a.m., and those with experience are already there to grab a coveted spot by the water's edge. No cans, glass, pets, or video equipment are allowed, and they mean it. June 7-8. Johnson's Beach, Guerneville. $33 per day; $61 for both days advance. 869-3940 or 546-BASS.

Aladdin
Standing Tall: Aladdin lights his lamp at Health and Harmony.



Health and Harmony
WHERE ELSE can you get your neck aligned and then throw it out again dancing to Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeño Band while sipping organic wine and eating something that threatens to contain spirulina but actually tastes good? A perennial favorite, Health and Harmony returns to the county for the 19th time to bring holistic healers, the infamous Hemp Pavilion, a natural-food sampling hall, a goddess temple, drumming circles, kids' stuff, and a whole lotta information, environmental alerts, and tie-dye. Featured speakers this year include Creative Visualization author Shakti Gawain, Way of the Peaceful Warrior author Dan Millman, Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, Supe Mike Reilly, and goddess historian Morning Glory Zell. As usual, a portion of the proceeds benefit local non-profits, and the change this year is directed to the changes directed by SOS (Support Our Students) and the Headwaters Coalition. June 14-15, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. Advance admission is $5-$10; at the door, $5-$12. 547-WELL.

The Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival
BEGUN LAST YEAR in tribute to the beauty of the late singer/songwriter Kate Wolf's words and music, this festival has taken on a life of its own, with an expanded roster of guest artists who are encouraged to sing their own songs as well as Wolf's. June 14-15, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Caswell Vineyards, 13207 Dupont Road, Sebastopol. Tickets are $5-$10 for children one or both days; $30-$60 for adults, one or two days. Prices slightly higher at the gate. 823-1511.

Sonoma-Marin Fair
OLD-TIMERS (OK--those merely wearing their first, shocking pair of bifocals) remember when the Doors shook the stage at the Sonoma-Marin Fair, and while no lizard kings are scheduled this year, the lineup ain't at all bad at this sweet regional do. Themed with the kids in mind this year, the Sonoma-Marin Fair wishes upon a star and receives in return the country stylings of the Smokin' Armadillos, the rock of Eddie Money, the smooth swing of the Coasters, and the replaced lyrics of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Of course there's hypnotism, ugly dogs, arts and crafts, and the cleanest livestock around--not to mention that sweet pink linty stuff spun from sugar. June 18-22, noon to midnight. Washington Street, at Hwy. 101, Petaluma. Admission is $7 adults; $3 kids ages 7 to 12; 6 and under, free. 763-0931.

Women's Goddess Festival
SISTERS TRULY are doin' it for themselves at this three-day celebration of everything under the moon. Held at the splendid Ocean Song Farms and Wilderness Center spread, this festival features author Z Budapest, workshops on all manner of things ancient and wiccan, and music by the Sapphire Percussion Ensemble, Joules Graves, Sharon Knight and Laurie Lovecraft, among others. June 20-22. This camp-out is pricey ($150, including accommodations and meals), but offers terrific deals for young women ages 12-17 and for those over 60 ($50); children under 12 are free but must be preregistered. 523-9999.

Cotati Jazz Festival
CELEBRATING THE GLORY of bebop, the Cotati Jazz Fest returns for its 17th year, bringing excellent musicians into the small clubs surrounding La Plaza Park in beautiful downtown Cotati. This year, trumpeter Peter Welker swings by with this sextet, as do pianist Ed Kelly, vocalist Denise Perrier, Dick Conte and his piano trio, and drummer Eddie Marshall. Area venues are the Inn of the Beginning, the Redwood Cafe, the Gourmet Burrito, the Tradewinds, and Cafe Louise. Children are welcome at all venues except for the Tradewinds (a drinking establishment, don'cha know). June 21-22 from 1 to 6 p.m. $12 one day; $20 for both. Visitors are given a badge that allows admittance to all venues. Big fun. 523-9908.

Fort Ross VFD Annual Summer Festival
THIS IS THE DARE: Name one other place where the volunteer fire department throws the best damn party in the county, buying new hoses and the like with money thrown happily from hands in answer to madly dancing feet. Waking up Cazadero once a year, the VFD party is one heckuva shindig, featuring, among other joys, the jazzy side of Zero, the welcome return of the Slammin' Babes, and the snap, crackle, and pop of the Naked Barbies. The food happens to be the other reason to attend, 'specially if you likes ersters. June 21 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Take Hwy. 116 toward Cazadero and follow the signs. Tickets are $12-$18 advance; $15-$22 at the gate. 847-3730.

Martin Luther King Festival
THIS CELEBRATION of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is in its 27th year of reminding our community of the importance of non-violent efforts toward the common good. Like an old-time festival, this day features such simple good times as an egg toss, pie-eating contests, and a tug of war. Plenty of food, music, and a basketball tournament bounce off the goodwill found at this down-home event. June 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 167 Hendley St., Santa Rosa. Admission is free. 576-1206 or 576-7443.

Festival of the Arts
THIS FESTIVAL moved from Jenner to Duncans Mills two years ago, and the parking isn't the only thing that's changed. With an increased commitment to the arts, the fest this year has theater and dance performances as well as the usual juried fine arts and crafts show, great food, and musical offerings by the One World Latin Jazz band, Red Archibald and the Internationals, and those Gator Beat guys on Saturday, with the Aires of Erin, Wendy DeWitt with Blue Saloon, and blues divas Dianne Swann and Sarah Baker on Sunday. Kid-zone art projects created by the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County round out these family-oriented days. June 21-22. Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Take Hwy. 116 to Duncans Mills and follow the signs. Admission is $2-$3; kids under 12, free. 824-8404.


July

Fiona Apple
THIS BRAINY YOUNG pianist brings her smart sensibilities to the state of that wretchedly difficult male/female thing with her to the Luther Burbank Center in a neat little alternative booking coup for the LBC. Known for the success of her hit song "Shadowboxer," Apple is climbing the charts with her nails out and her wit sharpened. We like that in brainy young pianists. July 2 at 7:30 p.m.. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $20. 546-3600.

Kenwood Pillow Fights
NO QUESTION ABOUT IT, the Fourth of July should be acknowledged for its grave significance as the day in which our great nation gained its freedom. It's also a terrific day to straddle a metal pole over a pit of mud and strike your fellow citizenry with pillows. This fight to the filth attracts some 12,000 patriotic fans to the tiny town of Kenwood, swelling the population 100-fold for one solid day of chili cook-offs, a foot race and parade, and special games for those who are not yet eligible to vote. July 4, of course, from 10 a.m. 833-2440.

Monte Rio Water Carnival
MONTE RIO becomes the logical center of the known world for locals this national birthday, as it takes three long days to properly congratulate the country on getting a year older. Featuring such goofy fun as projecting an image of the Statue of Liberty from the Monte Rio bridge onto a waterfall, this funfest offers arts and crafts on the beach and aqua races of all descriptions. Johnny Otis presents his Red, White, and Blues revue on July 5, and the weekend staggers on full of sandy sun-fun through Sunday. July 4-6 from 10 a.m. Monte Rio Public Beach, off Hwy. 116; Otis plays at another venue. Free. 865-1533.

Sonoma Salute to the Arts
THE LUSH GREENERY of the Sonoma Plaza is reason enough to celebrate, but what we like best about the Salute to the Arts is that writers--those poor souls locked away by themselves with only the terror of a demanding blank screen--are invited out into the strange, blinding sunshine to discuss and sign books. Additionally, visual and performing artists of all stripes let the public in on the secret, and the rest is foodie heaven with vintners and caterers putting on the veritable dog. The weekend begins with a Salute Celebration, a themed dinner at the Sonoma Golf Club in which guests select winners of a people's-choice awards for the best of the best. Proceeds benefit Sonoma Valley non-profits devoted to the arts, enriching the community the other 51 weeks of the year. July 18-20. July 18, dinner only, at 7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. At First and East Napa streets, Sonoma. Admission to the Salute is free; dinner is $50-$75. 938-1133.

Sonoma County Fair
THERE ARE THOSE who might turn up their noses at the fair (and are almost sure to if downwind from the swine barn on a hot day), but there is something about this yearly ritual of crowds and whirling rides--particularly if you can sneak away from work on a Tuesday afternoon, when the crowds are thin and the lines at the gyro stand are short--that is darn satisfying. The corny charm of foot massagers, the outstanding floral show, and the good live music all conspire to make a day at the fair a special event of the summer. The musical and special-event lineup this year is particularly good, with national art-rock faves Dishwalla (July 23) headlining one night, cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell and Texas crooner Don Edwards (July 25) strumming lyrically through the night, and an all-day musical tribute to Elvis (July 26), complete with sightings of the King. Other highlights: the Blues Festival (Aug. 2) with Chris Smither and James Armstrong; the PRCA Rodeo (July 25-26); the Fabulous Thunderbirds (July 28); and those a cappella madmen the Edlos (July 28). Look also for the Battle of the Hispanic Bands (July 29), the Mexican Rodeo (Aug. 3), and Christian rockers Jars of Clay (July 23). Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. July 22-Aug. 4, from 10 a.m. Tickets are $3-$7. 545-4200.

The Gay and Lesbian Cotillion
EVENT ORGANIZERS are billing this special evening as a "First Annual," as in "Let's do this again." Taking over Healdsburg's spacious Villa Chanticleer for a night of elegant eats and musical entertainment with appeal for everyone, Cotillion goers may choose to simply snuggle away listening to torch singer Paula Barnett Castillo, the piano of Chaz Williams, or the sounds of the Symphony Quartet, while in another room more raucous types (and who isn't one at some time or another?) can shake it loose at a DJ dance party. Proceeds benefit the Food for Thought AIDS Food Bank, making this an all-around good-for-the-soul evening. July 25 from 7:30 p.m. Villa Chanticleer, 1248 N. Fitch Mountain Road. $40. 573-9598.


August

Claire Victor
Tra La: Vocalist Claire Victor at the Petaluma Summer Music Fest.

Petaluma Summer Music Festival
THIS WONDERFULLY ECLECTIC series turns 10 this August and has a lineup worthy of true celebration. The festivities will include more than 20 concerts throughout the month, featuring classical, pop, world and children's music. Highlights include two Cinnabar Opera Theater chamber concerts: "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Lucas Foss and Mark Bucci's "Sweet Betsy from Pike"; the balalaika-accompanied Neva Russian Dance Troupe; world-fusion by Ancient Future; and Andean rhythms by Inkari. Not to missed are the atmospheric candlelight concerts where live chamber music by a variety of musicians and singers fills the parlors of Petaluma's stately Victorian mansions. Aug. 1-23. Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 763-8920.

Something's Brewing!
THE LUSH AROMA of fermented malt and hops is sure to permeate the air of the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building when the Sonoma County Museum raises its glasses to toast this, its 12th annual microbrew beer tasting. This major fundraiser for the museum will offer tastings of over 90 lagers and ales from 30 of the best microbreweries, brew pubs, and importers in California. Admission includes beer tasting, food samples from local restaurants and delis, and the ever-popular souvenir glass. Skoal! Aug. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. $20-$22. 579-1500.

Santa Rosa DixielandJazz Festival
ADHERING TO TRADITIONAL upbeat, brass-oriented Dixieland music, this 18-year-old jazz fest draws a loyal following from around the country. This year, the festival will feature 12 top-rated bands, including the Paramount Jazz Band from Boston and the Creole Bells from Australia. In addition, the popular "pianorama" returns, with noted pianists performing one-hour sets, and there'll also be a special gospel concert (free to the public on Sunday morning) combining the talents of the Alamo City Jazz Band and Uptown Lowdown. Aug. 22-24. Doubletree Hotel (formerly Red Lion Inn), 1 Red Lion Drive, Rohnert Park. $15 Friday and Sunday; $30 Saturday or $15 for half day Saturday; $45 for all until July 1 then becomes $50 for all. $55 at the door. 539-3494.

Petaluma River Festival
THE PETALUMA RIVER (actually a slough) was once a bustling liquid highway shipping all manner of agricultural products from wine to wool across its waters. Now the river, with its old picturesque turning basin, new wooden footbridge, and smattering of outdoor restaurants, experiences lazier times. Mostly, that is--except for one day each year when locals and visitors descend in droves for the Petaluma River Festival. The event features river rats reveling in water races in all manner of aqua-friendly jalopies, as well as an entire villagelike area devoted to the youngsters. Food, yeah. Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Petauma River Turning Basin, Washington Street at Water Street. $3 donation; children are free. 762-5331.

Healdsburg Guitar Festival
IF THIS IS THE GOLDEN AGE of guitar making in the United States (and it certainly seems to be), then Healdsburg is the craft's Athens. Now in its second year, this guitar festival draws the best luthiers from throughout North America. Expanding upon the success of last yea, this festival offers nightly performances and workshops on everything from songwriting to flamenco. Aug. 11-18 at the Villa Chanticleer, 1248 N. Mountain Road, Healdsburg. Prices begin at $8 for admission and vary for workshops and concerts. 433-1823.

Gravenstein Apple Fair
THIS LOW-KEY SUMMER weekend bills itself as "the sweetest little fair" in the county, and who are we to argue? Set in the mote-laden beauty of Sebastopol's Ragle Ranch Park, the Gravenstein Apple Fair features two days of great live music, lots of food, apiary demonstrations, llamas, and terrific crafts. We know those who look forward to the Gravenstein each year simply for the earrings and tie-dyed underwear, and it shouldn't surprise you to note that there are apples offered in every gastronomic configuration possible. Aug. 16-17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Follow the signs from downtown Sebastopol. Admission is $1-$5; children under 5 are free. 824-2060.

Old Adobe Fiesta
THIS PEEK INTO THE PAST invites you to discover life as those on General Mariano Vallejo's rancho lived it some 150 years ago (hint: hard work, dust, and absolutely terrible cable access) with such modern twists as the whiskerino contest, in which those with magnificent facial hair attempt to best each other in hirsute display. Demonstrations of homely crafts, a peek into the adobe's magnificent rooms, and picnicking on the oak-strewn grounds make this a wonderful summer event. Aug. 17, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 3325 Adobe Road, Petaluma. Admission is $2-$3. 762-4871.

Cotati Accordion Festival
IF THE OLD ADAGE proclaiming that "a gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn't" is true, then there hasn't been a gentleman (or gentlewoman) in Cotati in at least seven years. Because each August squeezebox aficionados from round the state use accordions and go to Cotati for two full days of performances, polka fever, and the famed Lady of Spain-a-thon (which all are exhorted to join). Aug. 23-24, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. La Plaza Park, downtown Cotati. Tickets are $7 for one day, $12 for both; kids under 12, free. 664-0444.

Bodega Bay Seafood, Art, and Wine Festival
MUNCH SALMON BURGERS, slurp oysters, contemplate the art, cheer the kids, taste wine, or go horseback riding. These are but a few of the choices at the Bodega Bay's fest, held on the gorgeous 700-acre spread of the Chanslor Ranch. Kids' stuff abounds. Proceeds benefit the Chanslor Ranch Wetlands and Wildlife Project. Aug. 23-24. One mile north of Bodega Bay on Hwy. 1. Follow the signs. 824-8404.

Redwood Empire Ballet
WITH A CORPS DRAWN from the summer's ambitious Harkness School­styled training program, REB showcases "Space Ambition" with original choreography by director Steffon Long and artistic director Maria Veigh, and dancers Charles Maple and James Sutherland, as well as "REBOOF (Really Back on Our Feet)," a special gala that combines two dances. Aug. 22-24 at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. 584-1700.


September

Russian River Jazz Festival
WITH THE LANGUOROUS spread of Indian summer, the ever more popular jazz fest, now in its 21st year, finishes the season off with one of the hottest weekends of the year. The Saturday lineup features guitarist Larry Carlton, flutist Les McCann, vibes man Bobby Hutcherson, the Cedar Walton Quartet, pianist Mose Allison, and the retro-jump of Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Continuing the tradition of beginning Sunday right, the gospel sounds of the Persuasions break the day, followed by pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Ivan Lins, the Jimmy Smith Quartet, and Ann Dyer and the No Good Time Fairies. Arrive early, cuz you'll want to stay late, and be prepared for a full day in the sun. Food and beverages are for sale onsite. No glass, cans, recording equipment, or pets, please. Sept. 6-7 from 10 a.m. Johnson's Beach, Guerneville. Tickets are $28-$68, with early-bird specials for those who buy now. 869-3940.

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From the May 22-28, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent

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