Event: Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival
Sebastopol’s Apple Blossom Festival
The Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival is a local celebration marking the start of apple growing season. While this year’s festival was the 67th with the name, festivals of its kind go back nearly one hundred years in Sebastopol. This year, the theme was “Hometown Reunion.” Appropriately, the festival delivered the feel of a small-town fair untouched by corporations or turned into a theme park. This year’s major service innovation was valet parking for bicycles at the front gate.
Kicking off the event at noon on Saturday was the 67th Annual Apple Blossom Parade. The parade is known far and wide for its elaborate floats—each representing a local business or organization—but also included marching bands, vintage automobiles and tractors, schools, a bible camp, Chinese dragons, horses, and dancers.
Here is a small sampling of the two hour event which 10 blocks from Analy High School to Calder Avenue, over ten blocks running directly through downtown. An especially loved favorite is “Dachshunds on Parade”—their colorful costumes are not to be missed.
There were marching bands from local schools including Analy and El Molino.
A local dance hall, Wischemann Hall, celebrated 33 years of operation by holding a square dance right on their float. Having contra danced at Wischemann for years, I was glad to see them represented.
As I was watching the parade, I was given a free sample of a gluten-free pesto arugula quesadilla from a woman who was handing them out. It was quite good, though unfortunately I didn’t find out who makes them. If anyone reading this knows, please comment below. (Editor’s Note: I fondly remember walking in the parade as a child in my Halloween costume with my friends some of us pulled in little red wagons, or watching it from the side lines and scrambling for the candy they would throw from the floats. That was a long way from today’s gluten-free treats, but the warm gesture is the same.)
An engine from the Graton Fire Department brought up the rear, throwing steady spray of water as it went. Along the way it gained a growing train of followers—mostly children seeking relief from the heat—as it progressed along the route. It was a refreshing end to the parade.
Taking over the entirety of Ives park (on Jewell Ave. and Willow St.) right in the middle of town; the event comprised kid-friendly amusement park rides, live music on outdoor stages, locally-made handcrafts, locally-made painting and sculpture, and a wide variety of tasty food, all within an easily-walkable area.
A total of ten live bands performed at the two outdoor stages throughout both days. Styles included swing and blues.
Behind the Veteran’s Hall, several lines of stalls offered craft art. Craft art venders included: hand-carved wooden knickknacks, beads, metalwork, fancy soaps, pendants, blankets, paintings and photographs, pinwheels, and jewelry (several kinds). I loved the hand-painted light bulbs.
The festival prides itself on being family-friendly, providing plenty for the children. One entire section is set aside for old-style carnival attractions, including a zip line I was very tempted to try. And IvesPark’s playground spaces remained open for business.
One pleasant surprise was a miniature petting zoo put on by the Shamanastary, a Sebastopol-based organic farm. Animals on hand included rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, and turtle doves, as well as ducklings, goslings, and chicks, with knowledgeable people on hand to introduce the animals to the children.
One advantage this small town local fair over its average state fair counterpart, especially here in west Sonoma County, is the wide variety of “good eats”. The food vendors along the south side of the Veterans Hall and new the back entrances represented a wide range of cuisines—most from local merchants. These included Greek, Chinese, Thai, BBQ, hot dogs and corn dogs. Okay, maybe some of those weren’t cuisines, per se. But the selection also included several organic, free range, and gluten-free alternative options. There were also a many cooling refreshments to help beat the heat, including cider, lemonade, frozen yogurt, and shaved ice and a wine/beer garden for the grownups, offering garden offering a wide selection of local vintages, ciders and brews.
Inside the Veterans Hall and away from the hustle and bustle of the festival proper, several art galleries exhibited work by local artists, including paint, sculpture, photographs, and pottery. I was delighted to discover an art workshop in progress for children run by the SebastopolCenter for the Arts—they both teach and display the students’ work, with the goal to make the gallery accessible to everyone.
I had a good day out, listened to some good music, indulged in some tasty food (yum gyros), laughed at the puppies on parade and came home pleasantly tired. I would definitely recommend the event. And next year I plan to take advantage of the bike valet! www.sebastopol.org
photos and story by Jim Marcolina