In the meantime, they're maintaining their sense of humor and their enthusiasm, which is infectious.

After the sign came down in June they staged an impromptu party in the front yard with champagne. On July 10 they threw a Golden Ticket gala pretty much for anyone in the neighborhood or who happened to stop by to offer words of encouragement.

Invitations were fancy gold-foil tickets mindful of the winning tickets to tour Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. But this was unlike your typical historical home tour in Healdsburg.

Neighbors, urged to bring their own flashlights, were treated to cocktails and finger sandwiches by candlelight.

"We just let them wander around the house and look at the floor plans in the living room," says Engel. "It was a chance to get to know what the house looks like now. At some point there will be another Golden Ticket party. And that will be to see what the house looks like after it's all done."

<em>You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at 521-5204 o4</em>