The art of the Vintage Festival

Posted on September 18, 2018 by Sonoma Valley Sun


By Jackie Lee | Sun Arts

It’s time for this year’s Vintage Festival, an annual event anticipated by the locals as well as out of town visitors, many of whom plan their annual vacation around the trip to Sonoma to enjoy art and music, along with tastes of the area’s best wines. The 2018 dates are Sept, 28-30. 

The festival has a long history, beginning in 1897 when the annual harvest celebration added entertainment, a play about Bacchus. It continued through the years, even throughout Prohibition when the wine was replaced by grape juice. Sidelined during the Depression and World War II, it was reinvigorated in 1947 along with a parade and live music. It has remained a much-loved local tradition ever since, from the opening night gala on Friday night through the many festivities of the following two days.

Managed by volunteers, the proceeds are donated to local nonprofits. In return, many of the beneficiaries lend volunteer support at the events, with games or booths set up to raise additional funds for their important community work.

As can be expected, wine tastings are a popular component of the event, and food booths attract as many customers. The music by several local bands and groups can be heard across the eight-acre Plaza, prompting carefree dancing and exuberant applause, but impressive visual impact comes from the many artists’ tents and exhibits.

Over 70 artists are set up throughout the Plaza with displays of painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, glass, woodworks, mixed media, textiles, and home accessories. A convivial group, most of them display their works at this event every year and have made solid friendships, so the overall atmosphere is reminiscent of a large family picnic, minus Aunt Bea’s tuna surprise.

Some local artists shared their thoughts about the event:

 Christy Aloysi and Scott Graham are first-time exhibitors in Sonoma. They heard about how wonderful it is from a painter who shows here. A wife-and-husband team of glassblowers creating an array of contemporary blown glass objects from functional to fantastic, they say it’s fun to do as well as fascinating to watch. Multiple pieces of their works were exhibited through the end of August at Filoli Gardens in Woodside.

merganzer with babies, Michael Ecton

Michael Ecton, photographer, has participated in the Festival for 15 years. He regularly attends other major fairs but finds this one to be good for business due to the responsive visitors, both local and out of the area. “I enjoy seeing my friends here every year,” he says. “I love the Sonoma atmosphere.”

Jerry Meyers _Ostrich_

Jerry Meyers loves to craft metal sculptures. He says this is the only festival he attends because it is so well run, it’s a good market and he enjoys catching up with his friends at the Festival, the local community, and visitors from out of town. He gets great satisfaction recycling debris into metal sculptures; this year he has a new collection of bird pieces. No website available at this time.

California Summer Sunset, Terry Sauve

Terry Sauve is a painter of stunning local landscapes. Anyone who has experienced the golden glow in her paintings never forgets it. She says she particularly likes the beautiful setting in the Plaza, and it’s well set up by the organizers. While there’s usually a big crowd of visitors, it doesn’t feel over-crowded and people can stroll around easily. The exposure aids in growing her business with people who are seeing her art for the first time.

Lyn Swan ceramicsLyn Swan, creator of artisan jewelry and trendy ceramics, commented that this is only one of the shows she participates in year-round. She particularly likes the Vintage Festival location because it’s in her home town and she enjoys being in her own backyard with so many familiar faces. Her popular display always attracts a gathering of new buyers as well as repeat customers.

Vintage Festival schedule of events:

Friday September 28: Opening night gala 7 pm to 10 pm at the Sonoma Barracks, featuring a live performance by the dance band Notorious, as well as delicious food and wine samplings.

Saturday September 29: Festival opens at 11 am. Special musical headliners on the Main Stage, 70-plus artist booths, great food, local wine, Beer Garden tent, and family grape stomp event. Get Your Glow On Parade starts at 8 pm.

Sunday September 30: The Race at 8 am, and the Festivities continue to 4 pm.


Jackie Lee is an artist living in Sonoma. A supporter of the local visual arts scene in all its forms, her focus is on showcasing individual events and artists as well as those represented by established galleries. She may be reached at [email protected].

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