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Holiday Happenings

[whitespace] Pacific Alliance Stage Company
Christmas presence: Pacific Alliance Stage Company kicks off the holiday season with an unusual take on an old classic--Inspecting Carol may not fill you with the spirit of the season, but it is designed to make you laugh your mittens off.

Our highly arbitrary guide to fun and frolic in the season of good cheer

By Marina Wolf, Shelley Lawrence, Patrick Sullivan, and Greg Cahill

WELCOME to the holidays. Now, we know more than a few people out there are thinking something like this: "Good cheer, my frosty red rump! Forget Santa--where are my car keys, checkbook, and four-page shopping list?" We get the same feeling sometimes, but let's all take a deep breath and try to focus past the crowded parking lots and impending visits from relatives. This time of year, after all, is meant for finer things than getting malled. There are a thousand ways to celebrate the season, to fill it with lights and music and, well, joyful tidings. You can have your holidays on the ice rink, bounce a bit on Santa's knee, or go retro as classics like The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol come to life on the stage. Below you'll find our ideas, from the traditional to the far-from, on how to put some reason in the season.

Santa Sightings

The Ho-Ho-Ho Trail
Once upon a time, a child had to be satisfied with a quick sit on Santa's knee and a stale candy cane as part of a no-tears treaty. But today's spectacle-happy tots can get their eyes filled with ever bigger and better holiday-time parades, such as the Downtown Santa Parade on Saturday, Nov. 21. The parade starts off at 10 a.m. at the intersection of E and Fourth streets, and continues down Fourth Street to Santa Rosa Plaza. Special attractions in this year's promenade includes stunt skaters and a llama drill team. If that doesn't grab your attention, then you have no holiday spirit at all. 544-SHOP.

Petaluma's treatment of the old bearded fella is a little more traditional, but just as hearty, with sugar plums for the little ones when St. Nick and the missus dock their craft at the Riverfront harbor at noon on Saturday, Nov. 28, followed by a wagon tour through historic downtown Petaluma. The Victorians may have been a repressed bunch, but they knew how to do their holidays right. The downtown tour sets out at 12:45 p.m. from B and Water streets. 769-0429.

Next, Santa pulls into the plaza in Sonoma on Friday, Dec. 4, at 5:30 p.m. to deliver hot chocolate and Christmas cheer. 996-1033.

If holiday bustle means that the kids can't catch up with Santa in the flesh, you can still see him live on Channel 72 on Friday, Dec. 18. Old St. Nick will be making merry and taking phone calls, and there will be storytelling in English and Spanish. The fun runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

Or, give the old elf a call on his free talk line. Naturally, he's a little busy this time of year, but on Sunday and Monday, Dec. 8 and 9, only, Santa will picking up the phone at 763-6051.


You Can Call Him Bob
... or just the year-round Santa for Sonoma County kids with terminal illnesses. Every year Bob Burke passes the hat at buffet parties that shine with local goodheartedness and talent. This year the Bluesburners and Solid Air are entertaining the kids on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 5 and 9 p.m. Choirs from Piner and El Molino high schools will join in the fun, along with Clo the Cow and other frolicking mascots to thrill the kiddies. Bob and his volunteers boast the best use of donations of almost any service organization in the county: 100 percent benefits the social and support programs that these kids need. Farmhouse Inn, 7871 River Road, Forestville. 887-2222.

Sebastopol has the reputation--deserved, we think--for being a shopper's delight. Enough out of the way that you really have to want to be there, enough in the loop to boast some of the most charming shops and sidewalks this side of San Francisco. ARTwalk makes the most of these natural resources on the first Thursday of every month, but of course the first Thursday of December is extra special, with a moonlight madness sale keeping many merchants open way past your bedtime, and a special tree-lighting ceremony in the downtown Plaza, with related activities to commence "around 6." No cost for strolling the sidewalks on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. (some stores stay open later), but all those cute little stocking stuffers will add up. 829-2416 or 823-3032.

Tree Time
The plastic creep of Christmas is insidious. Watch out: By the end of Thanksgiving weekend we'll already be drowning in hoax holly, faux firs, and purported pines. All this because live plants, once cut, tend to die and drop crunchy bits on our just-vacuumed carpets, and then, in a vegetatively vengeful twist, catch our houses on fire after being exposed too long to the ultra-high-watt Sparkl-Glo light set. The remedy for this vicious cycle of cut and curse is not, as you might think, to buy still more of the slick plasticky plants, but to get out and see what the plants do in their native habitats. Check out Healdsburg's most well-known arboreal residents on a historic tree walk with city arborist Matthew Thompson on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon. Breathe in that good, green-scented air and say thanks for the reminder. Free. 431-3301.

Another open-air pit stop on the Highway of Holiday Hell might be the 19th annual open house at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5-6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Enjoy a restful stroll through the grounds and warm your hands at a turn-of-the-century hearth after a promenade through the decked-out halls that Luther himself once strode. Free. Santa Rosa Avenue at Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa. 524-5445.

Tea Time
What is it about Victorian tea that brings out the melty-headed softie in us? Is it the lace and velvet bows? The promise of well-behaved and clean-booted children quirking their adorable little pinkies over a cup of cambric tea? The awe-inspiring sight of a towering tree adorned with baubles enough for four of its postmodern counterparts? Whatever it is, the Petaluma Museum Association has learned to capitalize on it to much success, as the 10th annual holiday tea will demonstrate on Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Women's Club of Petaluma (518 B St.). If the mouth-watering promise of English trifles, tender scones, and crisp little sandwiches isn't enough, then let the knowledge of the beneficiary bring you in: Proceeds go to the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum. Seatings are at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. Dress in old-time or elegant attire. Tickets are $25. Call 762-4247 for reservations.

After you've digested the crumpets and toasted your tootsies, put your mittens back on for the Christmas Parlour Tour, from 6 to 9 p.m. Four private homes are putting on their best holiday apparel, with costumed docents on hand to share the high points of each house's architecture and history. The $10 tickets may be bought at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum (20 Fourth St.) or through the mail by sending a check payable to Heritage Homes to P.O. Box 2152, Petaluma, CA 94953. Children under 12 get in free. 762-3456.

Spirit of Christmas
This crafts fair just keeps getting bigger and bigger, with scads of booths featuring a huge selection of handcrafted, heartfully made arts and crafts. Go on: See if you can resist the dried-flower wreaths, the fluffy dolls, the salvaged-wood crafts, and all the other knickknacks without which the month of December would be just a longer, colder, wetter February. Here's an opportunity, too, to introduce the young 'uns to the rosy-cheeked characters that'll populate their dreams for weeks to come: Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Frosty, Rudolph, and a Snow Queen too. The fair is open Dec. 4-6 and 11-13, on Fridays from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. Admission is $4/adults, $2/seniors and children ages 6 to 12; Fridays are half off for everyone. 575-9355.

Parade of Lights
"Over the river and through the woods ..." If Grandma's on your itinerary this season, and she lives somewhere up in the northern parts of our fair county, see if you can't persuade her and Gramps to stoke the fire and come on out for a progressive winetasting at five participating wineries in the Alexander Valley area. Chateau Souverain, Canyon Road, Geyser Peak, Clos du Bois, and Trentadue are plugging in the lights and pulling out the stops for an evening of gourmet goodness for all on Thursday, Dec. 10, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. It's free except for the gas money. 857-3417.

Flaming Flotilla
Petaluma River shines this holiday season with a fleet of boats decorated with holiday trimmin's and brightly colored lights. Visitors can view the flotilla all evening in the Turning Basin (Petaluma Boulevard North and B streets, behind the Great Petaluma Mill), and individual boaters are encouraged to join the Petaluma and Bel Marin Keys yacht clubs' vessels. And what holiday celebration would be complete without Saint Nick in his chubby, velvety splendor? He'll be arriving on the good ship Bonnie Lass. Entertainment will be provided by the quartet On Cue and bagpiper Seamus Raudenbush. Just lovely, and it launches at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. 765-6750.

'Tis the Season
"Happiness is a warm puppy," said the little round-headed kid once, which is fine if all you want is happiness. But if you want some ice-slicing, head-over-heels excitement, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena brings you that same warm dog on blades for "'Tis the Season," Charles Schulz's 13th annual variety show on ice, presented this year December 4-29. A cast of champion skaters fills the bill, and extravagant costumes and scenes cover the floor for a full-length holiday cabaret starring Snoopy and friends. Chow is served rink-side for those willing to spend more on the table, but a feast for the eyes is guaranteed, regardless of where you sit. 1667 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. Call for showtimes. Tickets are $10-$40. 546-3385.

Other Traditions

Mazel Tov
Holidays mean crafts fairs, which tend to be biased in the direction of the North Pole and all things Christmas. The Osher Marin Jewish Community Center does a right good turn on this tradition with a little fair of its own, the Hanukkah Shuk, which means "marketplace" in Hebrew. All the elements of a good fair are here--crafts, activity booths for the kids, sing-alongs, and other entertainment. The extra oomph of hot latkes make this the perfect kick-off for the Festival of Lights on Sunday, Dec. 13. The party runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free if you bring a new toy, clothing, or a non-perishable food item for those in need. 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. 415/479-2000.

Congregation Ner Shalom keeps the spirit of the season spinning with its annual potluck and Hanukkah festivities, held this year on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 5:30 p.m. Stories and songs are the backdrop for this warm community dinner and celebration, which culminates in the lighting of menorahs (bring your own candles). The more competitive should show up, top in hand, for an all-ages dreidel derby. Tickets are $10/adults, $5/children 12 and under. 85 La Plaza, Cotati. For reservations, call 664-8622.

Winter Ritual
Singing, dancing, storytelling, and Earth-based celebratory practices are all part of the 10th annual Winter Ritual Celebration, an occasion to welcome in the winter and call back the sun. This year's event focuses on establishing a multigenerational sacred community, so bring those daughters and grandfathers. Goddess movement visionary Starhawk is joined by co-authors Anne Hill and Diane Baker (the three have just published Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions) in leading the festivities, which take place Sunday, Dec. 13, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St. Cost is on a sliding scale: $3-$5/children under 16, $12-$15/anyone over 16. 823-9377.

Good Goddess!
Winter is the middle of the year's long night, which most pagan traditions embrace as the time in the void, splitting, shattering, resting in the dark. But the winter solstice, the end of three months of ever-decreasing light, is the perfect time for a rousing festival and crafts fair, in the way that only Goddess-loving people can do them: with soul-stirring music, hip-swinging dances, and a whole gallery of woman- and Earth-honoring crafts. Join the Living Goddess Collective to ring in the light on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19-20, from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. both days. A portion of the proceeds go to women's charities. Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St. Admission is $3-$13 sliding scale. 823-6224.


Events of Note:
Petaluma's Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, Dec. 12.
Sonoma County Music Association Concert, Dec. 19.
Little Charlie & the Night Cats, New Year's Eve.



Wake up the Mouse
"'Twas the Night before Christmas" has gotten a lot of rough treatment over the years, its classic rhyme scheme and action-packed stanzas making it an eminent object of parody at the hands of everyone from Saturday Night Live to Playboy to computer geeks with time to kill. For four years now, however, the Healdsburg Ballet has given Clement B. Moore's classic poem a little more respect with a three-act story ballet set to the music of Bizet, Tchaikovsky, and others. This year Healdsburg dance students ages 3 to 14 will take the stage at the Raven Theater on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8.50/general, $5.50/students, children, and seniors. 115 North St., Healdsburg. 431-7617.

Here comes Little Clara's stiff-jawed suitor down off the shelf for another round of holiday magic at dance companies all over the North Bay.

Start things off with Ballet California's full-orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky's glittering holiday classic. Guest dancers Patricia Tomlinson and Viktor Kabaniaev from the Diablo Ballet step into the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier, while local dancers big and small provide the whirling sea of Christmas Eve activity and the battle for a young girl's heart. It's all at the LBC on Dec. 18-20, with performances Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7, and Sunday at 2. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $19-$22/general, $14/students, children, and seniors; group rates are available. 546-3600.

If you just can't wait until then, come to Ballet California's annual Nutcracker Breakfast at the Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Dec. 6, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, which features magic, a mini-performance, and a silent auction. Tickets are $16/adults, $11/children 10 and under. 3555 Round Barn Blvd., Santa Rosa. 537-0140.

The Kingdom of Dreams welcomes other visitors on Dec. 11-13, when the Petaluma School of Ballet and the Petaluma City Ballet present the 12th annual full-length production of The Nutcracker. Swirl through the Snow Queen's velvet-white world with visiting artists from the Oakland Ballet and a cast of more than 75 dancers and dance students from Marin and Sonoma counties. The curtain rises at SSU's Evert B. Person Theatre on Friday at 8 p.m., on Saturday at 2 and 8, and on Sunday at 2 only. Pre-sale tickets are $14/adults, $9/seniors and children under 12; add a dollar for tickets at the door. Discounted group tickets are available. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 765-2660.

The Marin Ballet is on the act, too, with its 27th season of performances of the holiday classic Saturday and Sunday, Dec, 12 and 13, at 1 and 4:30 p.m. Marin Center Veterans Auditorium, Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. Tickets are $20/general, $12.50/seniors and kids 12 and under. 415/472-3500.

The seventh annual "Nutcracker in Sebastopol" takes place Dec. 18-20. Over 100 dancers from the Santa Rosa Ballet, Sebastopol Ballet, and Ballet Celeste hit the boards at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Analy High School Theater, 6950 Analy Ave., Sebastopol. Tickets are $10/general, or $7/kids under 12. 575-9444.

Center Stage

Family Theater
Winter wouldn't be complete without a family visit to the Cinnabar Theater, which has created a fine tradition of magical musicals to thrill the hearts of children and adults alike. This season, look for The Swallow's Tale, a holiday musical loosely based on Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince, and the gorgeously miraculous Amahl and the Night Visitors, which tells of the juncture of imagination and the giving spirit. The Swallow's Tale will play on Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 4-5, 11-12, and 18-19, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sundays, Dec. 6 and 13, at 2 at the Cinnabar Theater (3333 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma). Tickets are $8/adults, $5/youth. Amahl runs Dec. 5, 11-12, and 18 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 6, 13, 19, and 20 at 3 p.m. at the Polly Klaas Theater (Howard and English streets, Petaluma). Tickets are $15/adults, $13/seniors. Then, it's on to the new year, when the Cinnabar's Quicksilver II Theater Company offers Tomfoolery, the Wit and Wisdom of Tom Lehrer. The work of the master of musical satire (who is best known for the infamous Vatican Rag) comes to sarcastic life on the Cinnabar stage, beginning with a special New Year's Eve performance starting at 9 p.m. and featuring champagne and a buffet. Tomfoolery begins at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 23, with performances at 3 on Sunday, Jan. 17, and at 8 on Thursday, Jan. 21. Tickets are $13-$15/general, $11-$13/students and seniors, $9/youth; the special New Year's show is $30. 763-8920.

Babes in Toyland
The mystical realm of Toyland and the Magic Forest is threatened by the evil Barnaby and his minions in Victor Herbert's classic kids' play, and it's up to one little girl to save the day. Add the modern possibilities of sets and lights pulled together by American Family Theater for its "Broadway for Kids" musical adaptation, and you've got a glittering recipe for a breathtaking family outing. Meet the stars of the show, and stay around for an annual tree lighting, too, on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. LBC, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $10/adults, $8/children. 546-3600.

Christmas Carol
God bless you every one, and remember to bring a darn hankie, 'cause you're not getting out of the Charles Dickens classic at Sonoma County Rep with a dry eye. Tiny Tim, spooky spectres from all three time zones, and the ultimate story of personal transformation combine to make this the quintessential Christmas tale. See it come to life before your eyes Nov. 20-Dec. 19; Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 29, at 2.; and Sundays, Dec. 6 and 13, at 7. 415 Humboldt St., Santa Rosa. Admission is $12. 544-7278.

Inspecting Carol
Tired of the traditional take on the classic story? Sick of the traditional Christmas altogether? Sounds as though you're ready for the Pacific Alliance Stage Company's production of Inspecting Carol, running from Nov. 27 to Dec. 13. Seems a fledging professional theater company with NEA grant money at stake is staging A Christmas Carol. Wanna bet that a few things will go wrong? The play begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 on Sundays. Spreckels Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Admission is $14/general, $9 on Thursdays, $12 on Sundays. 588-3400.

Songs of the Season

The Art of Music
The cozy art gallery at the Quicksilver Mine Company will ring with classical holiday music when pianist and composer Janis Dunson Wilson appears Thursday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 p.m.. While you're there, check out Occidental painter Don Bishop's exhibit, showing through Dec. 6. 154 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 829-2416.

Carols in the Caves
No, Watson, it's not a caveman quartet in fuzzy Santa hats, it's multitalented musician David Auerbach getting primal under ground for the 13th year in a row. Enjoy a few hours with his stunning repertoire of 50 international, rare, and exotic instruments. Auerbach weaves storytelling and historical lore into his unique performances of world carols on dulcimers, harps, panpipes, flutes, and drums. The reverberant realms of caves at different wineries in Sonoma County set the stage for an auditory treat. New this year are four-course Twelfth Night Feast of Fools dinner concerts, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to serve the surgical needs of children around the world. Auerbach plays at the Clos Pegase Winery (1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga) on Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. ($25), and Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 5-6 at 2 ($30). The dinner concert is at Hans Fahden Vineyards (4855 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga), Saturday, Jan. 9 at 6 ($125). 224-4222.

It doesn't take much to get a kid singing. Often it takes a lot more to get a kid to stop singing. But if you can put aside your understandable yen for silence for one night, Tim Cain might have just the right songs for you to hear. The award-winning recording artist and children's entertainer unwraps two shows of spirited holiday singing for the whole family on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. in Petaluma (Polly Klaas Arts Center, 417 Western Ave.), and on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 in Sonoma (Community Center, 276 E. Napa St.). Tickets are $5 in advance and $6 at the door; no charge for children under 2. 765-1962.

Sonoma Valley Chorale
December's got to be the best time to kick off a musical season: Everyone's already in the mood to hear the old favorites. So the wise folk at Sonoma Valley Chorale start their performing year Dec. 12-13, at 8 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 and 7:30 on Sunday, with their "Glorious Christmas" concerts, featuring Rutter's Gloria, Pinkham's Christmas Cantata, and the standard repertoire of caroling classics. All shows are at the Veterans Building, 126 First St. W., Sonoma. Tickets are $12/general, $10/seniors and children. 935-1576.

Petaluma Sings!
Yes it does, and with a vengeance. This year's concerts are performed by the Petaluma Sings! women's chorus, children's chorus, and advanced children's chorus. Part One, a concert performed by the children's chorus, will get the entire family in the spirit of the season. Part Two, an evening of joy led by the women's chorus and the advanced children's chorus, will send those holiday thrills zinging down your back. The first concert is on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. at the Church of Christ, 870 Sonoma Mtn. Pkwy., Petaluma. Admission is $5/general, $3/kids under 12. The second concert is on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul's Catholic Church, 35 Liberty St., Petaluma. Admission is $8/general, $7/seniors, and $4/students. 769-7792.

A Chanticleer Christmas
Every year this male vocal ensemble sells out at acoustically gifted sites all over Northern California. We're fortunate enough to have the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Petaluma hosting these gents as they sing their rousing mix of medieval, Renaissance, and traditional holiday music. This year, audience members will get a chance to sing along, too. Chanticleer comes to town on Friday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. 35 Liberty St. Tickets are $25-$29/ reserved seats, $19/general; discounts for students and seniors. 800/407-1400.

Sing-Along 'Messiah'
You don't have to be a believer in that babe-in-the-manger thing to get a powerful boost from Handel's musical interpretation of the life of Christ. The 18th annual benefit for Hospital Chaplaincy Services, taking place this year on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m., has all the earmarks of quality performance--including support from the Baroque Sinfonia, Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus, and members of the First Presbyterian and First United Methodist churches--plus the soul-soaring greatness of audience participation in possibly the one piece of choral music where volume is at least as important as skill. Savvy sing-your-own veterans bring music, but you can get a score at the door, if necessary. LBC, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $12/adult, $10/seniors and juniors. 539-0495.

New Year's Eve

First Night
Take your party to the streets of downtown Santa Rosa--from City Hall to Fourth and fifth streets, through Santa Rosa Plaza, and into Railroad Square. A drug- and alcohol-free celebration, First Night features musicians, poets, art, and a thousand other ways to have fun on New Year's Eve. The action gets under way about 4 p.m., and the entry badges cost just $5 again this year. 579-ARTS.

Hangman's Daughter
The prodigal sons (and daughter) visit from their new home in Nashville for a New Year's Eve jam at the Inn of the Beginning. 8201 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. Tickets are $10; Call for start time. 664-1522.

Johnny Otis
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brings his dynamic act to the Sebastopol Community Center. The fun runs from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. 345 Morris St. Tickets are $35. 823-1511.

Sons of Champlin
These country hippie rockers know how to do New Year's Eve right: crank the amps, pull the strings tight, and let it rip. Legendary status from the '60s hasn't interfered with the Marin band's penchant for putting on a good party, with guaranteed great vibes from their string of hits, including, "Freedom," "Get High," "Swim," and "No Mo'." The pre-show party in the lobby is just the thing to get your limbs loosened up for the midnight merriment to come. Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. LBC, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $24.50. 546-3600.

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From the November 19-24, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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