Windsor's Summer Nights on the Green, a family-friendly affair that draws thousands of people to listen to free music and picnic on the grass, kicked off its 12th season Thursday, not a moment to soon for the eager multitude.

"It's what we've been waiting for, for about a month and a half," Vice Mayor Robin Goble told the crowd. "Welcome to Windsor's front yard!"

With that, the Bell Brothers country band got the party going, even though their lead singer was stuck in traffic and missed a good portion of the first set.

The small glitch didn't prevent folks from boogieing on the makeshift dance floor or enjoying the moment.

Music may be a big part of the attraction, but it's also about food, perhaps quaffing an adult beverage and hanging out on the two-acre green that is the heart of Windsor.

The signature attraction draws the biggest if not one of the larger crowds in Sonoma County cities that stage free concerts and events during the summer.

As many as 8,000 people flocked to the largest of Windsor's concerts last year.

"We come whether we know the bands or not," said Julie Steele, a Windsor resident. "It doesn't matter. It's a fun night."

She and her husband, Myron, and neighbor Susan Foster were sipping chardonnay and enjoying homemade salad, grilled chicken, sausage and watermelon.

"We plan a lot what we will bring on summer nights," she said of the food. "Sometimes it's us, sometimes it's a big group."

"They know where to find us," Myron said of the same grassy spot they stake out every Thursday in the summer by dropping off their lawn chairs early in the morning to reserve a space.

Concertgoers say the 12-week series offers an eclectic variety of music, from rock to blues and Cajun.

"I haven't heard a bad one (band) yet," said Geyserville grape grower T.J Murphy, a faithful attendee.

He was standing near the rows of more than two dozen food booths and farmers market vendors on one side of the Town Green. Murphy was waiting to order his favorite, an "unbelievable" calamari sandwich with "fabulous" sauce.

"And I have a taco afterward, every Thursday," he added.

Market manager Glenda Castelli said that perhaps 80 percent of the concertgoers will buy something from the market or a food booth.

New this year is a food "valet" service in which several of the restaurants on the Town Green deliver directly to concertgoers who don't have to leave their lawn seats.

Those interviewed Thursday, including Celia Ramirez of Ukiah, said it is an especially friendly event.

"You can't help but enjoy the people," said Ramirez, who was leading her 2-year old granddaughter by the hand. "The atmosphere is friendly. I've been coming here more than 10 years," she said.

"Everyone's nice to one another. There's no problems, good vibes, good feelings," said Mark Millan of Windsor who was with his wife and 17-year-old daughter.

"Something about Thursday is nice, just prior to the weekend. People are in a good mood," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat. com.