You could live a lifetime of fun within the single month of May, when the festival season kicks in with annual local favorites every weekend.
You could cheer for paddlers at the Great Russian River Race or the runners in Santa Rosa's Human Race. You could celebrate Mexican culture at Roseland's Cinco de Mayo party or Japanese culture at Juilliard Park's Matsuri Festival.
You could snack, talk and walk at the Wednesday Night Market, opening for the season in downtown Santa Rosa, or wave at the floats passing by in the Rose Parade or the Healdsburg Twilight Parade.
And by the end of the month, the music scene heats up with the Healdsburg Jazz Festival and Napa's mammoth Bottlerock music festival, with 60 rock, pop and soul music acts.
Here are an even dozen of Wine Country's best-loved May events. Start planning now.
<strong>Saturday — Great Russian River Race.</strong> Despite the drought, this race for kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards returns to Healdsburg for its fourth year, with one five-mile race, limited to 200 racers. They'll start at starts at 11 a.m. at Diggers Bend and finish at Veteran's Memorial Beach. There's no 15-mile race this year, but there will be a free party from noon to 4 p.m. with live music by Cahoots and the Church Marching Band,and a water conservation fair. 433-1958, <a href="http://greatrussianriverrace.com" target="_blank">greatrussianriverrace.com</a>.
<strong>Sunday — Day Under the Oaks.</strong> Go back to school for a day, at no cost. And you don't have to take any tests. The annual Santa Rosa Junior College campus open house offers 140 booths with food, hands-on activities, displays, demonstrations and more, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Highlights include Native American dancing, planetarium shows and a petting zoo. Free. 1501 Mendocino Ave. 527-4343, <a href="http://santarosa.edu" target="_blank">santarosa.edu</a>.
<strong> Monday — Cinco de Mayo.</strong> The county's largest celebration of the holiday, marking Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, takes place in Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood from 4 to 9 p.m., with continuous live music and dancers on two stages. 650 Sebastopol Road. <a href="http://santarosacincodemayo.com" target="_blank">santarosacincodemayo.com</a>.
<strong> Wednesday — Wednesday Night Market.</strong> Downtown Santa Rosa's weekly summer street fair, with food booths, several live music stages and fresh produce, runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday through Aug. 20. Opening night acts are Marty O'Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra, Mojo Style and Santa Rosa Symphony Youth Orchestra. <a href="http://wednesdaynightmarket.org" target="_blank">wednesdaynightmarket.org</a>.
<strong>May 10 — The Human Race.</strong> The annual charity benefit run will be as big as ever, with 200 teams and more than 700 individuals entered, some of them dressed up for the occasion in outrageous costumes. The run starts at 8 a.m. from Herbert Slater Middle School, 3500 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa, and later ends there. There are 3-kilometer and 10-kilometer courses. The day also includes a pancake breakfast from 8 to 11:30 a.m. <a href="http://humanracenow.org" target="_blank">humanracenow.org</a>.
<strong>May 17 — Luther Burbank Rose Parade and Festival.</strong> One of the biggest and oldest of the local traditional parades, this perennial favorite is named for the world-famous horticulturist, who lived in Santa Rosa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 120th annual event starts at 10 a.m. at Sonoma Avenue and E Street in downtown Santa Rosa. It drew more than 150 entries and some 4,000 participants last year. After the parade, the fun continues with a festival in Juilliard Park, with food booths, family activities and live music. Parade awards ceremony at about 2 p.m. Free. <a href="http://roseparadefestival.com" target="_blank">roseparadefestival.com</a>, 523-3728.