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Fun-seekers ready for busy Sonoma County weekend

It could well be one of the busiest weekends of the year in Sonoma County, one that has hotel rooms booked solid across the county and offers something for nearly all tastes.

By the time the sun sets Sunday evening, more than 35,000 people will have cycled over coastal hills, savored classical and bluegrass music at the region's newest entertainment venue, and cheered dirt-track motorcycle racing under sunny skies and temperatures expected in the upper 80s to low 90s.

"There's a ton going on," said Tim Zahner of Sonoma County Tourism, the organization that promotes the county as a destination for travelers.

Visitors will be pouring into Sonoma County from around the world for a trio of major events that appeal to nearly every sensibility.

The Green Music Center's grand opening weekend features concerts by Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang, the Santa Rosa Symphony and country-bluegrass stars Alison Krauss & Union Station on Saturday and Sunday. Nearly 15,000 tickets have been sold for the first major performances at the $145 million facility on the Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park.

"It's the newest thing on the scene," said Ryan Ernst, the center's marketing director, describing the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, modeled after the famed Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. "You really have to experience it to get it."

The hall is sold out all weekend, with up to 4,600 more patrons seated on an outside terrace.

Sold out since January, Levi's GranFondo, named after Santa Rosa professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer, will attract 7,500 riders to a mass start Saturday morning at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa.

Ranging in age from 8 to 80 years old, the cyclists will pedal west and fan out on three courses of 35, 65 and 103 miles. The latter includes the King Ridge segment's tortuous climbs, white-knuckle descents and stunning coastal vistas.

Food, beer, live music and children's games will draw 10,000 or more additional people to a daylong festival at the Finley Center, where Leipheimer and friends, including cyclists Tom Danielson and Kristin Armstrong, actor Patrick Dempsey and possibly former Giant Barry Bonds will give a shout-out at 4 p.m.


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