Friday, February 1, 2019

Sonoma State University Shares 'Art from the Heart'

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 1:18 PM

Having just marked four decades of engaging the community with exhibits and educational opportunities, Sonoma State University’s University Art Gallery continues to act as a vital resource and cultural center in the North Bay.

This weekend, the gallery hosts another exciting evening of art, food, wine and music at it's 35th annual Art from the Heart benefit auction. 

One of the oldest continually-held fundraising events in the area and an essential evening for novice and seasoned art collectors alike, Art from the Heart is highlighted by a silent auction featuring modestly-priced original works by more than 160 artists, as well as a performance by Dave Getz and delectable bites and beverages on hand.

Fall in love at Art from the Heart 2019 on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the University Art Gallery, Sonoma State, 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 6pm to 9pm. $25 suggested donation. 707.664.2295.
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Photos: Rivertown Revival 2013

Music, weddings, costumes and more from the Rivertown Revival on July 20, 2013.

Posted By on Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:38 AM

It was yet another successful year for Petaluma's Rivertown Revival on Saturday, highlighted by the incredible Crux Revival Tent Band delivering a full-on Alabama sermon, complete with call-and-response choir and holy cleansing in the congregation. Up on the hill, marriages were performed for $5; art boat races commenced in the river; plenty of food and beer was downed and music, music and more music lasted all day.

Click the girl on the tractor, below, for a photo slideshow.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rivertown Revival: Come For the Music and Art Boat Races, Stay For the $5 Weddings

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 5:25 PM


When boat races, delicious food, cold drinks, $5 weddings and good ole' fashioned Americana music come together, you can be sure that the Rivertown Revival (RR) is making its way into Petaluma, usually known for being the 'Butter and Eggs' center of Sonoma County. Jam-packed with enough musicians, vendors and art boat competitions to keep anyone satisfied, where to begin?

Here's a helpful breakdown of the various events occurring on this exciting day in which you may choose to indulge.


On five stages you will find musicians/bands of different backgrounds and genres performing throughout the day.

Performers include:
2013 NorBay winners for rock, The Highway Poets and for country/Americana, Frankie Boots & the County Line; Bay Area-based folk-punk band, Vagabondage; 13-piece funk/ecentric street band, Church Marching Band; Bay Area native and American roots-focused, Steve Pile band; singer-songwriter with a toy piano, Eliza Rickman; and (for the kids), children's songwriter and guitar player, James K.

For the full list of performers, visit

Buying cool items, plus food and drinks:

Merchants are present to sell their artisanal, environmentally friendly and one-of-a-kind specialty items at RR, which is committed to keeping the festival local, meaning vendors will be coming from within a 100-mile radius of Petaluma. Local food and beverages will also be available and toting the same message of sustainability.

$5 Weddings:

The festival will once again offer couples their one-of-a-kind and fun-filled party as a setting for an unforgettable wedding, and only for the low, low price of $5. Ceremony reservations are still available and are strongly encouraged. On site officiants will perform vow renewals and legal weddings, for couples with the proper paperwork, that is.

Email for more information.

For the Love of Art:

The festival features an array of art- art boats, art performances, music and other items for purchasing, and this year RR invites back sculptors from Sonoma County and beyond to showcase their art on land and some, perhaps, on water.

Called the 'land(ing)' artists, the group includes: geometric sculptor Boback Emad; 3-dimensional sculptors Eileen Fitz-Faulkner and Matthew Rapalyea; 22-year-old Petaluma sculptor Henry Washer; metal sculptor Sean Paul Lorenz; North Bay photographer and master printer Michale Garlington; sculptor and Santa Rosa Junior College design instructor Peter Crompton; metal and ceramic sculptor Todd Cox; and Santa Rosa recycled-metal sculptor Tyson Barbera.

More fun for every one:

1) The famous RR photo booth is here again, with photographer Michael Woolsey ready at the camera.

2) Enter your hand-crafted art boat in the Grand Flotilla competition where judges will score the vessels based on five categories. Apply here:

3) Kid-friendly activities are provided throughout the day on a designated stage this year, including kid-led music, jug band lessons, crafts, scavenger hunts, salmon fishing and more.

Now that you're a bit more acquainted with the excitement Rivertown Revival has to offer, make sure to join the non-stop fun on Saturday, July 20, at Steamer Landing Park. 6 Copeland St., Petaluma. $5. 11am.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Ride on a Zeppelin? Why, Sure! I'd Love to!

Posted By on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Thats no blimp! Thats a zeppelin!

Ever wanted to drink champagne on a zeppelin flying over the wine country? Here’s your chance. This weekend Airship Ventures is taking passengers on a dirigible trip of 45-minute one-hour or two-hour tours from the Santa Rosa airport. I took a two-hour flight over the Russian River, out to Bodega Bay, back in over Petaluma and north back to the airport. It was so stunning, I almost dropped my monocle into my champagne glass!

More words will come tomorrow, but for now, just enjoy the view!

Flying via zeppelin is one of the most incredible airborne experiences one can have. It's majestic. Have you ever flown in a comfortable space? There's very little noise, plenty of space, not too many people, the atmosphere in the cabin is fine, there are windows everywhere, two of them open up and you can stick your head outside. This is referred to as "zep head." I highly suggest it.

This particular company serves champagne and pretty much unlimited snacks during the flight, which is much appreciated. It's a good thing cell phones must be turned off, because otherwise most of the flight would be spent tweeting or telling other people how amazing the experience is, and I would have missed stunning view of the Russian River, Armstrong Redwoods, Bodega Bay, Petaluma (we circled the Petaluma High Trojans football game. Because of the time we were there, I think it might have been the junior varsity game).

The cockpit is right there, and I felt like a kid looking at all the dials and switches with awe and wonder. I even got a chance to talk to the pilot, Ben Travis. Even though, as a pilot, he can fly plenty of different craft, he not just prefers flying zeppelins, but referred to it more of a lifestyle. He said there's a group of pilots who do this, and they are all so enthusiastic, it's like a small, very dedicated network of pilots. Once you go zeppelin, you never go, uh, back, I guess. (Nothing rhymes with zeppelin.)

It's filled with helium, and is about 20 feet longer than a 747 airplane. The cabin only holds twelve passengers (and two crew members), and really you want to stay under 30 knots, so it's not the most economical or speedy way to travel. But our two hour flight used less gasoline than our 15-minute shuttle from the airport terminal to the runway. And it's so comfortable, business could be conducted in the cabin with ease. To buy and operate a zeppelin from scratch might cost around $25 million euro. For a billionaire who possibly owns multiple private jets this is a drop in the bucket. And there's a company who flies out of Moffett Field in the South Bay who is experienced and can set this up. Are you listening, Larry Ellison? Sandy Weill, do you read me? Tim Cook, where you at? Hey Mark Zuckerberg, how cool would it be to show up to places in a zeppelin? All you need is 22 acres of open space, you don't even need to land at an airport.

But really, the question I had the whole time in the back of my mind was, "Is it taboo to listen to Led Zeppelin on a zeppelin? Is there like, some sort of unspoken rule not to do that?" I asked after the flight, and apparently there's nothing against it. If Led Zep reunites with John Bonham's son on drums, as has been rumored, I think they should tour in the zeppelin, not in a bus.

Ever wonder what the cockpit of a zeppelin looks like? Now ya know.
  • Ever wonder what the cockpit of a zeppelin looks like? Now ya know.

Johnsons Beach never looked so... small. This weekend it will be filled with blues and beers.
  • Johnson's Beach never looked so... small. This weekend it will be filled with blues and beers.

Drinking sparkling wine while hovering 1,000 feet over the plants growing the fruit that makes the wine is SO meta.
  • Drinking sparkling wine while hovering 1,000 feet over the plants growing the fruit that makes the wine is SO meta.

Birds eye view of Sonoma Coast State Beach
  • Bird's eye view of Sonoma Coast State Beach

Eye-level with the sunset. Nuff said.
  • Eye-level with the sunset. 'Nuff said.

See this site for more info on the wine country flights.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tomato, Tomahto, Tomatoe, KJ Festival Shows it's all Good

Posted By on Sun, Sep 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM

It’s tough to pick one standout memory from the Kendall Jackson 2012 Heirloom Tomato Festival. There were dozens of chefs serving a variety of tomato-themed samples, a copious amount of wine, a great Latin band, the giant centerpiece tent with over a hundred different types of tomatoes cut up for sampling, the lovely weather, the interesting people, the interesting outfits, celebrity sightings, beautiful scenery—it’s almost too much to take in at once. Luckily, this annual event seems to get better each year, but get your $85 general admission tickets early; this one sold out in advance.

Starting with the food, because that’s probably the main draw, it was a mix of local restaurants and a host of others food purveyors, with catering companies and tomato product companies. Upscale plates like savory tomato and bacon bread pudding from John Ash mingled with Everyman food like wood-fired pizza with tomatoes and pork cracklins from Johnny Garlic. Then there was the unique, like the tomato, watermelon and mint gelato from Fiorello’s, which had a long line most of the afternoon.

There were seminars on wine tasting and a competition between two Top Chef contestants, but with so much food and wine to try I didn’t get to see any of them. I did hear the music, as the Carlos Herrera Band played several sets throughout the day, and the Latin flavor could be heard throughout the grounds. Very good sound system, as well. Top notch, all the way around.

The tomatoes were the star of this day. Under the central tent, over 175 different varieties were up for sampling, varying widely in taste and names. Some are named after taste, some after appearance, and some, like God Love, are named by the whim of the grower. Personally, I would name them all after Pokémon. When I ran out of Pokémon, it would transfer over naturally to names of bosses from the Megaman video game series. If there were any left after that, maybe start naming them after the sayings on Frank Rossitano’s hats in the sitcom 30 Rock.

Some dishes that stood out to me were either fantastically original, extremely creative or simply perfect. One such dish was the tomato sushi from JoAnne & Jimmy, a catering company of sorts from San Francisco. They host pop-up dinners from time to time and Jimmy, also known as Culinary Institute of America-trained Master Chef James Corwell, uses his imagination and skills to create interesting menus. He’s been perfecting this sushi for years and hopes this 4-month-old company will help create a buzz for this and other specialties.

Vegan tomato sushi, super sustainable seafood.

He starts with great sushi rice, forms it for nigiri and dabs a bit of wasabi on top. Then he carefully fillets tomato, removing the skin and seeds, placing each piece atop a bed of rice before wrapping it with a thin seaweed seatbelt. The result is an incomprehensibly accurate visual representation of maguro tuna, but it’s completely vegan. It tastes great, as well, with the familiar taste of sushi rice and the unexpected flavor of tomato combining into a new sensation that wouldn’t leave my mind.

James Corwell and his crew preparing non-traditional sushi in a traditional way.
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • James Corwell and his crew preparing non-traditional sushi in a traditional way.

Another dish that captured my imagination was the scallop on toasted tomato bread with clear tomato gazpacho from Bistro Boudin in San Francisco. Yes, it’s the same company that makes the sourdough bread. But the bistro is upscale, and chef Misael Reyes wanted to create something special for the festival that would really highlight tomato without forcing it to be the focal point of the dish. His scallops were delicious, and the bread for the toast points he made from scratch, folding tomato puree into the dough. The highlight was the gazpacho, which he says was clarified for four hours through strainers and cheese cloths to finish as a semi-opaque, very flavorful shooter of tomato soup in a totally un-traditional way. If the voting boxes hadn’t been collected before I went to cast my vote, this would have been my choice.

Scallop on tomato toast with clear tomato gazpacho

Reyes said he had never made tomato bread or tomato gazpacho before this attempt, and seemed happy with how it turned out. He says he might have had a different opinion, however, if it were he and not his sous chef that did most of the strenuous straining of the soup.

Chef Misael Reyes, second from left, with his crew from Boudin Bistro in San Francisco
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Chef Misael Reyes, second from left, with his crew from Boudin Bistro in San Francisco

Right next to Reyes and his crew was a sweet tomato dish that stood out to me, the heirloom tomato and apricot spice jam bars with oatmeal streusel by chef Reneé Pisan at Chloe’s French Café in Santa Rosa. These little gems were perfect in consistency, not too sweet and packed with tomato flavor, with just the right amount of oats on top for texture.

Heirloom tomato and apricot spice jam bars with oatmeal streusel
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Heirloom tomato and apricot spice jam bars with oatmeal streusel

It was so balanced, and the combination of apricot and tomato made a great jam. I could spread that on toast, make a sweet pizza, dollop it in yogurt or just spoon it into my mouth like a slob. I don’t care, I just want more of it.

Dawn Hubbard, left, and Emily Levitan of Chloes French Cafe
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Dawn Hubbard, left, and Emily Levitan of Chloe's French Cafe

The weather was perfect, the grounds are beautiful, outfits ranged from shlubby to stunning and even traffic and parking weren’t that bad. This was the 16th KJ tomato fest, and already I’m planning on how to get in next year. The cadre of volunteers seems able to handle every task, from chopping tomatoes to delivering water to pouring wine, and I suspect the abundance of eager free labor has something to do with free admission to the festival. Either way, hats off to them; these tomato enthuiasts made everything run smoothly.

Guy Fieri was there, and he was cool and pretty down-to-earth. We talked for about 10 minutes about how much he really thinks the North Bay is the best place on Earth. As much as I tried to find something to find fault with about the guy, because we all know controversy sells more than praise, I couldn't disagree with him on that one. But really, bro, outta my league? Let's let her decide that one.

Perhaps I shall start a website called, beginning with this pic of Guy Fieri
  • Photo by someone else using my camera
  • Perhaps I shall start a website called "," beginning with this pic of Guy Fieri

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Free Tickets to Green Center Opening Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 2:24 PM

The back of the Green Music Center, seen here, opens for a view of the main hall from lawn seating. It also projects sound acoustically, but speakers will provide added reinforcement.
  • The back of the Green Music Center, seen here, opens for a view of the main hall from lawn seating. It also projects sound acoustically, but speakers will provide added reinforcement.

Free concert tickets are always good, and free concert tickets to the Green Music Center’s opening weekend Sept. 30 at 2pm are very good. But there’s a catch—these tickets won’t actually get you into the main hall to watch the concert. They won’t get you seating at a table just outside the hall (which opens in the back to a terraced lawn), either. These free tickets are for lawn seating, which means sitting on the grass beyond the $25 table seats. But, hey, free is free, right?

The tickets are a gift from the Santa Rosa Symphony, performing Beethoven’s Consecration of the House, Ravel’s Bolero, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto performed by SRS conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane, and Copland’s Canticle of Freedom, featuring the 100-voice Symphony Honor Choir. The Symphony also commissioned an orchestral work, Sonoma Overture, by Petaluma composer Nolan Gasser. It’s worth going just to hear Kahane play Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto, let alone see it.

Yes, it will be visible from the nosebleed free seats, because, as the symphony points out, “Most of the lawn seating will not have a view of the stage; however, large outdoor screens and a state-of-the-art sound system will facilitate an exciting experience for all.” This means the pressure is on the camera crew and director to create an exciting experience for those 2,700 who are sure to gobble up the free seating. Even though it’s free, tickets are required (though they will be available at the gate, is still available). Presumably, seating on the lawn is first come, first served.

As of right now, there are still very good seats available at the $25 tables directly outside the hall. Those might be worth the price, too, but make sure your seats aren’t in the “half stage visible” section. For both the free and $25 lawn seats, patrons are invited to bring their own picnic, but not alcohol, to the concert. Box lunches, wine and beer will be available for purchase. For the free lawn seats, feel free to bring low chairs or blankets. Ever been to a concert at the Shoreline in Mountain View? It might be like that, but not built on a mound of old garbage. Check out the Santa Rosa Symphony's website for details and tickets.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rohnert Park's 50th Anniversary 'Celebration'

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Did Paul Simon sign off on this?
  • Did Paul Simon sign off on this?

It’s not every day Rohnert Park has a party that doesn’t get shut down by the cops before midnight. So when the city hosts an official parade and festival, it’s time to pop open a bottle of Cooks.

Rohnert Park’s 50th Anniversary is this Saturday, Sept. 15, with a parade, festival and fireworks at the high school football stadium. There’s a car show, live bands (Wonderbread 5, Counterbalance, the Rotten Tomatoes and the Poyntlyss Sistars) and contests like... a tricycle race. It all starts at 11:30 in the morning.

I grew up in Rohnert Park, and have many wonderful, vanilla memories of the city. But this event, a 50th anniversary celebration, feels like the leftover scraps of every Founder’s Day parade (which the city hosted annually until the late ‘90s) combined together into a celebration scraploaf of some kind, thrown into the microwave and served to the soon-to-be-disappointed kids eagerly awaiting “meatloaf night.”

It started to go downhill when the city made a big deal in a press release of having Wonderbread 5 headline the celebration. $5,000 for a cover band playing songs from an era completely unrelated to 1962, when the city was founded. Completely unrelated to the entire idea of a 50th anniversary. It wasn’t like the city covered this up—it was a point of pride, a “look what we got HERE” kind of boast. Like Wonderbread 5 is Bon Jovi or something. (To be fair, Wonderbread 5 is very good at what they do, and Bon Jovi would only be a minor upgrade).

Then, nothing. We heard nothing about what would be there, what events would take place. There was some hubbub about the “Friendly City” sign being renovated, and that’s now completed by a David Armstrong, who apparently took on the task mostly on his own. Raised the money and kept moving forward until it got done. Looking at the city’s official website, there is no reason I would attend this event. There’s even this weird, “Mr. Lucky Legs” throwback competition from the 1980s, which crowns the man with the most unique, hairiest or manliest legs.

The parade is actually Rancho Cotate High School’s annual homecoming parade, upon which this celebration has glommed. That’s cool—it’s a very hometown thing to do. But Rancho started the homecoming parade on its own six years ago after a long hiatus. For the city to simply absorb it into its own event is poor taste considering the decidedly un-friendly relationship it’s had with the school district in the past. Hopefully this is a sign of things changing, but to an outsider it’s awfully disconcerting.

The whole event feels as though this were planned in part by those who planned the city 50 years ago, but without the good time that was surely had by those guys. The Friendly City may be clinging too tightly to a past where red was a different kind of gang color and black folks and homosexuals weren’t allowed into dining rooms of civilized people.

Rohnert Park can at least be commended for creating an event, something city officials have, lately, left up to the minds of local businesses. Results of those events have been varied. This celebration will surely be a good time for those with any interest in “bed races” or standing around with a can of beer, nodding and saying, “yeeeep… mmmmmhmmmm.” But for everyone else, it’s sure to be a quick peek at the vendor tents, and then back home to the Real Housewives marathon.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Guy Fieri Afraid of the Pit?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Guy Fieri at the 2011 Wine Country Big Q. Photo by Derrick Story.

Guy Fieri will be in attendance at the Wine Country Big Q barbecue competition at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa July 14, but he won't be cooking. He has hired a ringer to lead his Tex Wasabi team to what he hopes will be a second straight Grand Champion title and berth into the KC Royale BBQ Championship.

This is big time barbecue. This is one of just 29 officially sanctioned Kansas City Barbecue Society events in the state, and the only one in the North Bay. There are two dozen teams competing, and each has paid a hefty $300 for the privilege, in addition to bringing their own meat. There are over $7,500 in prizes available in seven categories. The winner gets a chance to compete in the World Series of BBQ, the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo, with over $300,000 in prizes available.

Ever seen the TLC show "BBQ Pitmasters?" This is that same circuit, and some teams from the show might be there, though not Californian Harry Su (he will be in London at the time, says event organizer Judy Walker). This is show-up-the-night-before-and-season-your-grill BBQ. This is rain-or-shine BBQ. This is two-coolers-of-beer BBQ.

But why isn't Guy "Full Throttle" Fieri manning the grill for this prestigious competition? Is he too popular for mere barbecue cookoffs? Too busy to hold a spatula? Will there not be enough television cameras or radio microphones? One might begin to think Guy's lost a step, perhaps he doesn't have the chops anymore? It almost creates demand for a Anthony Bourdain "Into the Fire" style episode of one of Guy's TV shows to see if he can still hack it in a kitchen.

Or, maybe he wants to win so badly that he hired the Joe Montana of barbecue. The guy who, with tongs in his hand, is unbeatable at his game.

The man's name is literally Dr. BBQ. On his birth certificate the name Ray Lampe is crossed out, and written in red pen (or is that sauce?) next to it is "Dr. BBQ."

Ray Lampe, AKA Dr. BBQ. Photo courtesy

Here are a few of his qualifications to be cooking under the Fieri name:

-Expert judge on the Food Networks "Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri."
-Appeared as a BBQ expert on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives."
-Cooked in over 300 BBQ contests and won over 300 awards.
-Written five cookbooks and is currently working on a sixth.
-Featured on numerous TV shows and in several magazines.
-Won the Wine Country Big Q for Fieri's team last year.
-Spokesman for the Big Green Egg, a formidable (and expensive) charcoal grill.
-Looks like Guy Fieri if Guy Fieri were in ZZ Top.

The competitions include brisket, chicken (any cut, though judges generally prefer thigh), pork ribs (any type is acceptable but spareribs are most common), pork shoulder (butt), leg of lamb and "mystery meat." The judges also determine a Grand Champion, who will be entered into the American Royal Invitational in October. Competitors include rookies, amateurs and seasoned veterans. Not only will they be cooking for qualified KCBS judges brought in from all over the state, they will be cooking for the general public, who have paid $20 to $45 per ticket to slather their faces and coat their stomachs in sauce and delicious animal fat.

Dr. BBQ knows the prescription for a winning brisket, but he will face some tough competition this year. Arizona's IAB (Ineed Another Beer) 30 BBQ, which is ranked No. 18 in the nation, just happens to be in town. And seeking revenge is Casual Smokers, from KC, Mo., who finished second, just behind Tex Wasabi in last year's pork shoulder category.

But no matter who wins, its unlikely anyone will go home feeling empty. The event is a fundraiser for the Children's Museum of Sonoma County, and barbecuing is just fun, even when it's hard work. Eating barbecue is even more fun, especially when you don't have clean up.

The Wine Country Big Q KCBS sanctioned BBQ Competition is July 14, 1 to 5pm at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa. Tickets are $20 for youth, $45 general admission (including bbq, wine tasting, live music from Pete Stringfellow band and others). 707.523.3728.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Floating on Air

Taking a ride in the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon classic in Windsor

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Jimmy Long fills his hot air balloon, the Sonoma Star, Friday for a preview flight for the Windsor Hot Air Balloon Classic this weekend. - NICOLAS GRIZZLE
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Jimmy Long fills his hot air balloon, the Sonoma Star, Friday for a preview flight for the Windsor Hot Air Balloon Classic this weekend.

That hot air balloon in the iPhone 4s commercial? That’s Jimmy Long’s Sonoma Star. I rode in it this morning over vineyards, lakes, neighborhoods—and, this being Northern California, pot farms.

Long is one of 26 pilots in the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic this weekend in Windsor. He’s also one of just eight commercial hot air balloon pilots in Sonoma County (the FAA requires a “lighter than air” certification for licensed pilots to fly a balloon).

"That’s cool, Jimmy. So, how long have you been flying?" I asked.

Jimmy looked at me. “About two weeks now.”

Apparently pilots like to mess with passengers when they’re the only two people in a wicker basket 350 feet above the ground. (Really, he’s been participating in the Hot Air Balloon Classic for five years, for fun and to show local pride, and piloting longer than that.)

So we take off from Keiser Park around 7am, soaring majestically over the Sonoma County Airport, the Windsor Golf Club and hundreds of acres of vineyards. Past the paved roads and cul-de-sacs is where the true beauty of Sonoma County comes to life: we’re surrounded by mountain ranges, vineyards and oak trees enveloped in a clear blue sky. A trace of wind pushes us south, and with eyes closed, it’s impossible to tell we are even moving.

Swooping down to about 15 feet, Jimmy shows off some nifty piloting skills hovering above a group of vineyard workers. From even 100 feet up, we can hear dogs barking, peacocks crowing and even the rustling of workers brushing by grape leaves in the field. Skipping past a nearby tree, we get close enough that I can pluck a fruit, or a nut, or something, from a branch about 30 feet in the air.

Seeing my amazement at this fancy maneuver, Jimmy takes us closer to a couple more trees. His favorite thing about flying balloons, he says, is sharing the experience with others. My favorite thing, here above the county, is letting the wind take us wherever it may, having real control only over altitude and seeing the area from a whole new perspective. But I suppose one might get used to that after a few trips.

We land once in a soft dirt field in Windsor, but we figure it might be easier to pick up the balloon in a different spot, so off we go to find a more suitable landing space. After picking up some significant speed (22 knots!) we end up all the way in southwest Santa Rosa, flying over a couple pot farms (the rottweilers and fenced-off gardens tip us off). Coming in for a landing isn’t easy, as the winds change at different altitudes. We end up in a farm, which may or may not have been neighboring yet another marijuana growing operation, with a very nice man who helps us get the balloon and basket from out of his goat and sheep pen.

The goats were skeptical at first, but let us pass.

Jimmy says it’s common to land on farms, and that most people are welcoming. Some even request him to land near their house so they can watch the spectacle.

If you go hot-air ballooning, wear comfy clothes and don’t bring a picnic basket or wear high heels. Oh! And when using a camera/phone, make sure it’s somehow fastened to your body – my poor note-taking pen slipped to an early death, 200 feet below.

The 22nd annual Hot Air Balloon Classic begins Saturday, June 16, at 5am in Keiser Park with “dawn patrol” tether rides and a 6:30am main launch. In addition to balloon rides, there will be food and craft booths, kids’ activities and much more. Tickets are $10 for 13 years and older, $6 for 6- to 12-year-olds, with no charge for ages under 6. For more info, check out or call 707.838.5345.

UPDATE!: The Hot Air Balloon Classic also drives the girls wild.

Hovering above a landing site in the Sonoma Star, piloted by Jimmy Long. - NICOLAS GRIZZLE
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Hovering above a landing site in the Sonoma Star, piloted by Jimmy Long.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

V-Day Does Media

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:00 AM

This email just landed in our editor@ box, cc'd to every media outlet in Sonoma County, including quite a few members of the Petaluma Argus-Courier staff. The V-Day Petaluma folks wonder why they don't get more love?
I've been pitching to several pubs, including Here for the past month.  I think the Sonma Cnty Gazette got tired of my messages and finally responded that they had received and were awared.

~ T

On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 10:33 AM, V******t wrote:

T -

Somehow I'm not surprised with the Argus.  I think their editorial / reporting team has really diminished - not staffed with the best / brightest and I think they've lost focus worrying more about financials than the real reason people pick up the paper - for news!

Consider pitching to the Marin's freebie rag, "Here" magazine.  It's getting more and more interest and definitely not shy with regard to sexual related content (in a good way).

- L

On Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 7:03 PM, VDay Petaluma  wrote:

So disappointed Argus didn't follow up with an article on MMRP.  Hell, it took them three weeks just to "calendar" MMRP.

~ T

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