HOUSE OF FUNK Hood Mansion’s front lawn is now a music venue.
Volunteer organizers Bill Myers and Linda Pavlak have two loves: live music and the outdoors. Three years ago, they combined these elements for the Funky Fridays summer concert series, a weekly event originally held at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park that raised funds to keep the once failing park open and active.
Last year, Funky Fridays encountered a peculiar problem. It became too popular, and the state cut the allowed capacity from the 300–400 average number of attendees to a conservative 125. For Myers, it was a huge setback.
"We were up to 500 people in the third season, that's when the state came down hard," he says. "There was just no more room."
Undaunted, Myers and Pavlak began in earnest to find a new home for Funky Fridays after last summer's season ended. In December, they happened upon a new spot, Hood Mansion on Pythian Road, between Santa Rosa and Kenwood.
Working alongside Melissa Kelley, executive director of the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, Myers and Pavlak are revamping the Funky Fridays event for a fourth season featuring all-star musicians and family-friendly outdoor fun. This week, Funky Fridays returns on May 27 with beloved soul and funk band the Bruthas, led by Levi Lloyd.
"It's a gorgeous venue, with a huge front lawn where the concerts will take place," says Myers. "You've still got a view of the Myacamas Mountains in the background, especially Hood Mountain, the tallest point in Sonoma Valley."
Built in 1858 by William Hood, the impressive Hood Mansion was constructed from bricks made onsite. In the last 160 years, it has gone through a series of owners, including Utah senator and mining and railroad magnate Thomas Kearns in the late 1800s, and the fraternal organization the Knights of Pythias in the early 20th century.
Now owned by Sonoma County, the building sits empty. Myers and Pavlak's fundraising vision to benefit the county's regional parks foundation includes improvements to the site and Hood Mountain regional park.
This year, Funky Fridays has upped the ante in its offerings: wine from local vineyards, beer from Henhouse Brewing and barbecue from Tri-Tips Trolley will be sold at the concerts. Attendees may bring their own picnic options if they choose. The event will also offer a kids' area with activities.
"Moving forward, we know we've got a winning combination here, supporting local musicians and local parks," says Myers. "And it's just going to keep growing."
Funky Fridays kicks off the season on May 27 at Hood Mansion, 1450 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa. Doors at 5:30pm; music at 7pm. $10; kids under 18 free ($10 parking per car). 707.833.6288.