Thousands of people are expected to roam the streets of Santa Rosas historic Railroad Square district Sunday watching eccentric contraptions race on the train tracks during the second annual Handcar Regatta.
But its getting so Railroad Square, just west of downtown, is pretty busy any time. As new destinations open in the blocks surrounding the citys old train depot, the entire district gains power as a magnet for visitors.
Longtime hometown favorites such as La Gare French Restaurant and the Omelette Express now share the area with more current and high-end restaurants like Starks Steakhouse.
The tourists who come in appreciate the easy access to so many places to go eat in the evening, all within walking distance, said Keo Hornbostel, general manager of the Hyatt Vineyard Creek hotel and a member of the Historic Railroad Square Associations board of trustees.
The same compact district also offers live bands at the Last Day Saloon, ARoma Roasters Coffee House and the Toad in the Hole Pub. And the 6th Street Playhouse stages full theatrical productions.
Add to that the popularity of a growing list of special events.
Last year, arts activists Ty Jones and Spring Maxfield launched the Great Handcar Regatta, drawing some 5,000 people to see races run by handcars created by local artisans. Organizers predict 7,000 could attend this years event today.
And its not just one big event, Hornbostel said. We do a little bit at a time, and that reaches out to people from different demographics.
In August, some 400 people attended the second annual A Taste of Railroad Square, a restaurant showcase organized to raise money in support of the 6th Street Playhouse.
On Oct. 4, Paul Stokeld of the Toad in the Hole Pub plans a block party, with the pubs regular bands and patrons, some of them local actors, performing Monty Python skits and songs.
Ive been puttin up posters, and they must look good, because somebody keeps nickin em, Stokeld joked in a pronounced English accent.