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Everyone was wandering everywhere as the light began to fade and it was a pretty cool scene in what used to be a pretty bad neighborhood.

Over there, "Chef" Ivan Neibart of Santa Rosa sat on a newsrack in front of an old diner being turned into a culinary apprentice program for at-risk youth.

He said: "Have you seen anybody, anybody all, just between you and me, who is upset or frustrated?"

He seemed to have a point. No bad vibes were evident at Saturday night's Winterblast, a, well, how to describe it: An annual indoor-outdoor festival that features artist studios, music, food and, after nine years, what has become a much-loved parade involving couches.

It is one of several public street events put on every year by the loosely organized and proud of it South A Street community — "I hope we never become a nonprofit," said Barbara Harris, an organizer and gallery manager.

"The neighborhood's actually starting to support itself," Neibart said.

The sun slid below the Highway 12 offramp at the neighborhood's west edge and in the intersection of South A Street and Sebastopol Avenue, a person on a bicycle did tight donuts.

A woman whipped glowing things on strings around in circles.

"It's beautiful," said Susie Dalton of Healdsburg, coming out of a building housing 20-odd art studios and galleries. "And it doesn't feel very wintry."

It didn't. The air was south of warm but well north of brisk. It was very mellow. People were letting their toddlers run, standing around talking. There was always someone laughing, it seemed.

But over by the Whiskey Drome it wasn't mellow. It was actually intense.

A fence-like structure built of two-by-fours that flared open like a daisy in partial bloom was actually a track around the inside of which whizzed three young men on bicycles to a thumping musical beat.

Improbably — for the structure was just 26-feet around at its widest — its owner and builder Mike Solari said:"We can fit 10 bikes in here."

Would they?

"If we can scrounge up more bikes," he said.

On a corner, Spinster Sisters, the restaurant that has elevated the neighborhood's prominence since opening last year, was bustling. Up the street, so was The Undercover Baking Agency, whose owners had set up tables outside.

"I think it's a very positive affair to expose the community to art," said Tali Zisman, who with his wife was visiting from San Francisco and sitting outside.

"We're in Santa Rosa at an art fair," his wife said into her cellphone.

People were streaming down a driveway toward what a sign announced was StudioISM, going past a really big painting of a landscape under the sun; although because it was in blues, and it was dark out, it looked like a nightscape.

A disc jockey played heavy electronic dance tunes laced with strains of Indian bellydancing music and Brino Ism — who lives there and runs the artists collective — greeted guests entering a basement studio packed with visitors.

The walls were covered in his and other artists' work and the ceiling was low enough that a basketball player's head would have gone through it.

"This is the biggest thing that happens in the year," said Ism. "It just gets better every year."

Who to contact

Nexius Solutions (Verizon installer)

Brett Windham



City of Santa Rosa

Eric McHenry

Chief Information Officer



He promised the night would, well, expand.

"They shut down and then everybody comes over here and we party until the cops tell me to be quiet," he said.

Soon came the couch — or Sofa, as in South of A — parade. It lasted five minutes and perhaps a thousand people cheered it on. The couches were festooned in lights, one was covered in a sheer bed canopy, one was cycled, several veered all over as they found their way.

"Yay," people shouted.

"Here we come!"


"That's awesome!"


(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)

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